Extradited Aussie pirate sentenced to 51 months

Hew Raymond Griffiths was the long-time leader of the DrinkOrDie software piracy network, says DOJ

The leader of one of the oldest and most widely recognised internet software piracy groups was sentenced to 51 months in prison on one count of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement, the US Department of Justice (DoJ) announced last week.

Hew Raymond Griffiths, 44, was extradited to the US from Australia in February, and in April, he pleaded guilty to two copyright-related charges in US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in Alexandria. Griffiths, a British national, was the long-time leader of the DrinkOrDie software piracy network and an elder in the underground internet piracy community, known as the warez scene, the DOJ says.

He faced a sentence of up to 10 years in prison and a US$500,000 (NZ$653,000) fine for the charges.

Griffiths “became one of the most notorious leaders of the underground internet piracy community by orchestrating the theft of hundreds of thousands of dollars in copyrighted material,” Alice Fisher, assistant attorney general at the DOJ, said in a statement.

Griffiths had fought extradition for almost three years, and he was held in an Australian detention centre during that time. His extradition was one of the first for a copyright offence, the DOJ said.

“Whether committed with a gun or a keyboard — theft is theft,” US Attorney Chuck Rosenberg of the Eastern District of Virginia, said in a statement. “And, for those inclined to steal intellectual property here, or from half-way around the world, they are on notice that we can and will reach them.”

DrinkOrDie was founded in Russia in 1993 and expanded internationally throughout the 1990s. The group was dismantled by the US immigration and customs enforcement in December 2001, with more than 70 raids conducted in the US and five other countries, the UK, Finland, Norway, Sweden and Australia.

The operation targeting DrinkOrDie has resulted in more than 30 felony convictions in the US and 11 convictions elsewhere, the DOJ said.

The DOJ estimated that DrinkOrDie was responsible for the reproduction and distribution of more than $50 million worth of pirated software, movies, games and music.

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