UK software pirate jailed in the US

A British man who headed a major internet software piracy groups has been given a 51-month jail sentence in the US for conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement.

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A British man who headed a major internet software piracy groups has been given a 51-month jail sentence in the US for conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement.

Hew Raymond Griffiths was extradited to the US from Australia in February, and in April pleaded guilty to two copyright-related charges in the US courts. Griffiths was the long-time leader of the DrinkOrDie software piracy network and a senior figure in the underground internet piracy community, known as the warez scene, the US Department of Justice said.

He faced a sentence of up to 10 years in prison and a $500,000 (£250,000) 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", said Alice Fisher, assistant attorney general at the Department of Justice.

The British man had fought extradition for almost three years, during which he was held in an Australian detention centre. His extradition was one of the first for a copyright offence.

"Whether committed with a gun or a keyboard - theft is theft," said US Attorney Chuck Rosenberg of the Eastern District of Virginia, where the case was heard. "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, UK, Australia and Scandinavia.

The operation targeting DrinkOrDie has resulted in more than 30 convictions in the US and 11 convictions elsewhere, the Department of Justice said, adding that DrinkOrDie was responsible for the reproduction and distribution of an estimated $50m (£25m) worth of pirated software, movies, games and music.

In a 1999 interview, Griffiths said he ran DrinkOrDie's day to day operations and controlled access to more than 20 top warez servers worldwide. He said then he would never be caught.

DrinkOrDie specialised in cracking software codes and distributing the cracked versions over the internet. The group distributed software from large companies such as Microsoft, Adobe and Symantec, as well as smaller software vendors, the Department of Justice said. The group used encryption and other security measures to hide its activities from police.


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