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US super-pirates plead guilty

FBI's largest-ever probe yields three

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Three men have pleaded guilty to copyright charges following the Justice Department's largest-ever investigation into computer piracy. Albert Bryndza, 32, from New York, Seth Kleinberg, 26, from Los Angeles, and Jeffrey Lermanm, 20, a student from Long Island all admitted distributing thousands of X-box and Playstation games.

Each played a different role in the scheme. Kleinberg was responsible for cracking codes to allow the discs to be copied. Lerman edited the software so it could be squeezed onto one disc and Bryndza built servers which stored the titles ready for download.

All three say they made little or no money from their activities and were motivated by competing with other groups to get games online first. Prosecutors described the three as "Robin Hoods of the internet".

The year-long FBI investigation was dubbed "Operation Higher Education" because of suspicions that pirates were using university machines to distribute software. The Feds said the network was difficult to crack because members communicate through encrypted chat rooms and use password-protected servers, often located outside the US.

The trio could face between three and five years in prison but all are facing their first charges, so sentences could be less.

More details from AP here.®

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