Software pirate fined, going to jail

A California man was sentenced to 87 months, or more than seven years, in prison and ordered to repay $5.4 million in what federal prosecutors called the largest U.S. software piracy operation. Virginia Eastern District Judge T.S. Ellis, III, also ordered Nathan L. Peterson, 27, of Antelope Acres, Calif., to forfeit assets, including homes, cars and a boat purchased from selling copies of copyrighted software from Microsoft, Adobe Systems and Symantec, among others, according to a statement. Peterson pleaded guilty in December to two counts of criminal copyright infringement after FBI agents shut down his website. The FBI investigation spanned 2003 to February 2005 and included purchases of pirated software from the site and were delivered to an undercover agent over the Internet or to Northern Virginia addresses. The illegal sales cost software publishers nearly $20 million, according to the FBI. Peterson had claimed he sold the software as backups for businesses. Following his guilty plea, Peterson was arrested and is serving an 18-month sentence for selling assault weapons, according to the statement. "This defendant lined his pockets by stealing the hard work of others," according to a statement by Alice S. Fisher, Assistant U.S. Attorney of the Criminal Division. The Business Software Alliance (BSA), an organization created by companies to police illegal sales, provided substantial help to the investigation, according to prosecutors. Peterson sold more than 84,000 disks, John Wolfe, BSA's Director of Internet Enforcement told Software piracy cost the industry $6.1 billion in 2005, according to the BSA. The industry group created a $200,000 fund to pay for tips resulting in investigations and prosecutions of alleged piracy. In July, the BSA awarded more than $15,000 to people who reported instances of piracy This isn't the first piracy case to come before Ellis. In August, Danny Ferrer, a 37-year old software pirate from Lakeland, Fla., was sentenced to up to 10 years and agreed to forfeit a helicopter, six cars (including a 1992 Lamborghini), boat, flight simulator and even an ambulance. Ferrer's site sold more than $2.5 million worth of copyrighted software. In July, Microsoft filed 26 lawsuits against companies selling illegal versions of its applications. It said businesses selling legitimate Microsoft software cannot compete with the pirates. No responsibility can be taken for the content of external Internet sites.

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