Four individuals have been charged in the Northern District of Georgia for their alleged roles in piracy groups engaged in the illegal distribution of copies of copyrighted Android mobile device applications, or “apps.”
Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates of the Northern District of Georgia and Acting Special Agent in Charge Ricky Maxwell of the FBI’s Atlanta Field Office made the announcement.
“These crimes involve the large-scale violation of intellectual property rights in a relatively new and rapidly growing market,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Raman. “While this represents the first counterfeit apps case by the Department of Justice, it exemplifies our longstanding commitment to prosecute those who steal the creative works of others.”
“Copyright laws are designed to protect creative thinkers and encourage them to use their talents in ways that benefit society,” said U.S. Attorney Yates. “These defendants are charged with violating the law by stealing copyrighted apps, thereby depriving the creators of the apps the fruits of their labor. We are committed to protecting copyright owners, and we will continue to vigorously prosecute those who steal all forms of copyrighted work.”
“The protection of intellectual property is the cornerstone of a free market that rewards innovation and forward thinking,” said FBI SAC Maxwell. “The federal charges presented in this case illustrates the problems facing technology based companies in particular but also highlights the FBI and U.S. government response to those engaged in such wholesale criminal activity involving the piracy of copyrighted products.”
An information filed on Jan. 23, 2014, charges Kody Jon Peterson, 22, of Clermont, Fla., with one count of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement. A separate information filed today charges Thomas Allen Dye, 21, of Jacksonville, Fla.; Nicholas Anthony Narbone, 26, of Orlando, Fla.; and Thomas Pace, 38, of Oregon City, Ore., with one count of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement. Peterson was arraigned on Jan. 23, 2014, and Dye, Narbone and Pace were arraigned today.
According to the information filed yesterday, Peterson and his fellow conspirators identified themselves as the SnappzMarket Group. From May 2011 until August 2012, Peterson conspired with other members of the SnappzMarket Group to reproduce and distribute over one million copies of copyrighted Android mobile device apps through the SnappzMarket alternative online market, without permission from the software developers and other copyright owners of the apps, who would otherwise sell copies of the apps on legitimate online markets for a fee.
According to the information filed today, Dye, Narbone, Pace and their fellow conspirators identified themselves as the Appbucket Group. From August 2010 to August 2012, defendants conspired with other members of the Appbucket Group to reproduce and distribute over one million copies of copyrighted Android mobile device apps through the Appbucket alternative online market without permission from the copyright owners of the apps.
The informations charge the SnappzMarket Group and the Appbucket Group with renting computer servers to host websites such as www.snappzmarket.com and www.appbucket.net , respectively, to provide digital storage for the pirated copies of copyrighted Android apps that each group distributed to their members or subscribers. On Aug. 21, 2012, seizure orders were executed against these two website domain names for the illegal distribution of copies of copyrighted Android mobile device apps – the first time website domains involving mobile device app marketplaces have been seized.
The maximum prison sentence for the charge of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement is five years in prison.
Charges contained in a criminal information are merely allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
The investigation of the case was conducted by the FBI. Assistant Deputy Chief for Litigation John H. Zacharia of the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section (CCIPS) and Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Bly of the Northern District of Georgia are prosecuting the case on behalf of the United States, with the assistance of Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian M. Pearce of the Northern District of Georgia. The Office of International Affairs provided assistance in the matter. Significant assistance in the case has also been provided by the CCIPS Cybercrime Lab.