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Feds bust world's most prolific music piracy ring

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Six men have been accused of running the world's most prolific music piracy ring, an online crew federal prosecutors allege delivered more than 25,000 copyrighted albums, often before they were officially released.

As members of Rabid Neurosis, or RNS as the group was called, they tapped insiders at music retailers, radio stations, and CD manufacturing plants, who were able to get their hands on music titles before their commercial release in the US. In other cases, they turned to affiliates elsewhere in the world, who were able to supply music that was not yet available in America.

"These reproductions were done for the benefit of the members of RNS and other affiliated piracy groups, in that, by getting a reputation for providing pirated materials that were previously unavailable on the piracy scene, RNS members were granted access to massive libraries of pirated music, video games, software and movies," prosecutors alleged in court documents filed Wednesday.

The claim of personal benefit is important, since sentencing guidelines frequently require a showing that copyright infringers financially gained from their activities.

Wednesday's indictment, filed in US District Court in the Eastern District of Virginia, named Adil R. Cassim, 29, of Granada Hills, California, the alleged leader of the group, Matthew D. Chow, 28, of Missouri City, Texas, Bennie L. Glover, 35, of Shelby, North Carolina, an employee of a CD production plant, and Edward Mohan II, 46, of Baltimore.

Each was charged with a single count of conspiracy to commit copyright infringement. If convicted each faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a fine of $250,000, in addition to a possible order to pay restitution.

Patrick L. Saunders, 30, of Brooklyn, New York, was charged in August and pleaded guilty on Tuesday to one count of copyright infringement. James A. Dockery, 39, of Mooresboro, North Carolina was charged on Tuesday.

Chow, intends to plead not guilty during a court appearance scheduled for next week, his Houston-based attorney, Terry W. Yates, said. Attorneys for the remaining defendants couldn't be reached for comment.

According to Saunders's plea agreement, RNS willfully infringed more than 25,000 copyrighted titles during its decade in operation. Its first release was in 1996, with a copy of Metallica's Ride the Lightning, and its final official act was the posting of Fall Out Boy's Infinity on High in January 2007. In March 2006, an RNS member distributed Cassandra Wilson's Thunderbird album about a month before its commercial release.

"During its existence, RNS was generally viewed as the most successful internet music piracy release group in the world," the agreement, which was signed by Saunders, stated. ®

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