Four plead guilty to software piracy

FRAMINGHAM (10/03/2003) - Four men pleaded guilty Thursdayin the U.S. District Court in New Haven, Conn., to conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement, U.S. prosecutors said.

These criminal prosecutions were the first cases to be brought as a result of a 15-month, software piracy investigation known as Operation Safehaven that resulted in the seizure of thousands of pirated CDs and DVDs as well as dozens of computers and servers, including the largest "warez" site ever seized in the U.S. to date, according to a statement released by Kevin O'Connor, the U.S. attorney for the District of Connecticut.

The four men are Travis Myers, 29, of Yakima, Wash.; Terry Katz, 26, of Yorktown Heights, N.Y.; Walter Kapechuk, 55, of Schenectady, N.Y.; and Warren Willsey, 53, of East Berne, N.Y.

According to court documents, Myers, Katz and Kapechuk were all participants in the "warez scene," an underground online community consisting of individuals and organized groups who use the Internet to engage in large-scale, illegal distribution of copyrighted software.

In the warez scene, certain participants, known as "suppliers," are able to access copyrighted software, video games, DVD movies and MP3 music files, often before those titles are available to the general public, according to the statement.

Other participants, known as "crackers," then use their technical skills to circumvent or crack the digital copyright protections; and others, called "couriers," distribute the pirated software to various file servers on the Internet for others to access, reproduce and further distribute.

"Stealing the intellectual property of others is no different from any other form of thievery," O'Connor said in the statement.

In pleading guilty, Myers admitted that he was a member of several leading warez groups, including "DrinkOrDie," and that he acted as a distributor or courier for those groups, the statement said.

Katz admitted that he was responsible for operating and maintaining several computers used in the warez scene, including a file server that was used to illegally collect, store and distribute tens of thousands of pirated software titles, games, movies and music files.

Kapechuk admitted that he was responsible for operating and maintaining a number of warez servers located at the State University of New York at Albany (SUNY-Albany) which were used to illegally collect, store and distribute thousands of warez titles, according to the statement. Willsey also admitted that he assisted periodically in the maintenance of the SUNY-Albany warez sites.

Myers, Katz and Kapechuk each face up to five years in prison, three years' supervised release and a fine of up to US$250,000. Willsey faces up to one year in prison, one year's supervised release and a fine of up to $100,000.

O'Connor said more prosecutions are expected.

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