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Piracy case extradition closer

(Simon Hayes)

UNITED States authorities have conceded any move to extradite alleged "Drink or Die" software pirate Hew Raymond Griffiths could take some time.

Mr Griffiths, 40, of Berkeley Vale on the NSW Central Coast, has been indicted by the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia over his alleged role in a global software piracy ring.

Drink or Die (DOD) was the name a syndicate of alleged US-based software pirates gave itself.

A spokeswoman for the US Attorney's Office in Alexandria, Virginia, said a US arrest warrant had been issued for Mr Griffiths following his indictment, but he was not in custody.

"The extradition process is beginning but will take time to complete," she said.

The indictment of Mr Griffiths was part of a major push against internet piracy by Virginia Attorney Paul McNulty, whose office has one of the US's largest cybercrime investigation divisions, she said.

Criminal action against alleged software pirates was unusual, but authorities were keen to press harder, she said.

"There's a big push on from this office right now and we have been doing it more frequently," she said.

The indictment accuses Mr Griffths of conspiring with others to make at least 10 infringing copies of one or more pieces of software.

The charges carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $US500,000 ($835,000) fine.

The indictment is part of Operation Buccaneer, the largest online piracy investigation by US authorities.

To date, 20 defendants have been convicted of copyright infringement, and 10 sentenced to between 33 and 46 months prison.

Six defendants face charges in the UK.

"DOD was a highly structured criminal organisation devoted to the unauthorised reproduction and distribution of copyrighted software over the internet," according to the indictment of Mr Griffiths read to the US court.

"The group sought to achieve a reputation of the fastest provider of the highest-quality application and utility software to the underground internet software piracy community."

The indictment alleged another defendant operated a drop site to store software on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology network, and "access to the drop site was strictly controlled by the defendant Griffiths and a few other high-level group members".

It is alleged the drop site often received software weeks ahead of a publishers' official release, and group members then cracked the copyright protection, testing the software and packing it.

At least eight FTP sites were used for distribution, it is alleged.

The US Attorney's Office alleges the group sent emails publicising their work.

From November 2000 to December 2001 the group released more than 275 applications worth more than $US1 million, the department alleges.

"The defendant was a long-time Council member of DOD before being officially promoted to co-leader," the indictment alleges.

AustralianIT visited Mr Griffith's residence but was unable to contact him for comment.

Source: www.news.com.au

Cybercrime News Archive

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