Warez pirates caught by Operation Jolly Roger

RISCISO indictment handed down

Nineteen participants in the so-called 'warez' scene were indicted on federal charges last Tuesday for pirating more than $6.5m worth of copyrighted computer software, games, and movies and distributing it online.

The charges stem from an undercover investigation, code-named Operation Jolly Roger, into a sophisticated online warez group known as RISCISO (RISC being an acronym for Rise in Superior Couriering, and ISO referring to a file format).

Warez is a term commonly applied to software that has been stripped of its copy protection and made available on the internet for downloading. Those participating in the warez scene have become a priority target for law enforcement.

According to the US Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois, RISCISO allegedly acted as an original source for thousands of pirated works, with over 19,000 gigabytes (equivalent to more than 23,000 CD-ROMs) uploaded and downloaded on one server alone via the internet.

The copyrighted works included operating systems, utilities, word processing, data analysis and spreadsheet applications, communications programs, graphics, desktop publishing, movies and games that could be played on computers, and on video gaming consoles such as Xbox and PlayStation 2.

The defendants were charged in a 15-count indictment that was returned late last Tuesday by a federal grand jury in Chicago, where the investigation was conducted.

All 19 defendants were charged with one count of conspiracy to commit copyright infringement, and 15 of the 19 were charged with one additional count each of copyright infringement – both of which offences are prohibited by the No Electronic Theft Act, also known as the NET Act.

If convicted, conspiracy to infringe a copyright carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, and copyright infringement carries a maximum of three years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The indictment also seeks forfeiture of 172 items of computer hardware and related electronics that were seized from the defendants during the searches.

"Online thieves who steal merchandise that companies work hard to produce and protect might think that cyberspace cloaks them in anonymity and makes them invulnerable to prosecution, but we have the ability to infiltrate their secret networks and hold them accountable for their criminal conduct," US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald said.

“Intellectual property deserves protection by law enforcement just like any other property,” he added.

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