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The owner of one of the largest software piracy websites in the US has been handed a record sentence of seven years in prison.

Nathan Peterson, who ran the illegal website iBackups, copied and sold upwards of $20m worth of computer software. He used Google ad words extensively to help generate visits to his website.

High-profile victims included software giants Macromedia (now Adobe) and Symantec. The iBackups website claimed it sold legal copies of backup software. The Federal Bureau of Investigation had been tracking illegal activity on the website since 2003.

Typically, software pirates get an average of 22 months in prison. But the hefty sentence dished out to Peterson last Friday by the US District Court in Alexandria reflects the amount of damage caused – nearly double the average software piracy case.

Peterson pleaded guilty to two counts of criminal copyright infringement last December. At the Court appearance he also agreed to pay the huge sum of $5.4m in restitution, eight times the average fine.

Keith Kupferschmid of the Software and Information Industry Association (SIIA), who first alerted the FBI to iBackups, said the sentence "sends a message to those who illegally copy and sell software that they will be punished to the fullest extent of the law".

In related news, a study carried out by the SIIA on software piracy from 2000 to the present day found the typical profile of a cyber criminal - a California man aged 35. ®

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