Gov nets first four for online thieving

A Justice Dept. antipiracy operation has netted its first four guilty pleas from online music thieves, the agency announced Tuesday.

Each defendant faces up to five years’ imprisonment and a $250,000 fine. Sentencing is scheduled for May 19.

Derek A. Borchardt, 21, of Charlotte, N.C.; Matthew B. Howard, 24, of Longmont, Colo.; and Aaron O. Jones, 31, of Hillsboro, Ore., pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit copyright infringement. George S. Hayes, 31, of Danville, Va., pleaded guilty to one count of criminal copyright infringement, Justice said in a statement.

All four were involved in what the DOJ described as “pre-release music groups,” which essentially traffic in CDs prior to commercial release.

“The supply of pre-release music was often provided by music industry insiders, such as radio DJs, employees of music magazine publishers or workers at compact disc manufacturing plants and retailers, who frequently receive advance copies of music prior to its commercial release,” Justice said. “Once a group prepared a stolen work for distribution, the material was distributed in minutes to secure computer servers throughout the world.”

The pleas resulted from Operation FastLink, an ongoing global antipiracy effort launched in 2004 in cooperation with authorities in 10 foreign countries. The four new pleas bring the total number of FastLink convictions to 27. The other 23 involved pirates illegally distributing pre-release movies, video and computer software.

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