First guilty verdict under US internet piracy law

Out-Law News | 16 May 2001 | 12:00 am |

On Friday, 11th May, a federal jury in Chicago returned a guilty verdict in the first trial under the No Electronic Theft Act, a 1997 law enacted in the US to combat internet piracy. A member of Pirates With Attitude was convicted.

Christian Morley, 28, of Salem, Massachusetts, was found guilty of conspiracy to infringe software copyrights for his role in the high profile group, “Pirates with Attitudes.” Thirteen of Morley's co-defendants had already entered guilty pleas.

A total of 17 individuals from across the US and Europe were charged in May last year with conspiring to infringe the copyright of more than 5,000 computer software programs that were available through a hidden internet site located at a university in Quebec, Canada.

The indictment named 12 of the defendants as members of the underground group, “Pirates with Attitudes” (PWA), reputed to be one of the oldest and most sophisticated networks of software pirates on the internet. PWA disseminated unauthorised copies of software on-line, often known as “warez,” including programs that were not yet commercially available.

The NET Act was enacted in 1997 to deal with prosecution of internet copyright piracy. It makes it illegal to reproduce or distribute such copyrighted works as software programs, even if the defendant acts without commercial purpose or for private financial gain. Conspiracy to infringe a copyright carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Restitution is mandatory.