A man who has admitted illegally distributing songs on the internet before they were released in shops faces up to five years in prison.
Authorities warn the internet does not provide anonymity
Federal prosecutors said Mark Shumaker, 21, of Florida, who headed the Apocalypse Crew group, has admitted infringing copyright laws.
The Apocalypse Crew obtained pre-release copies of CDs from music industry workers including DJs and magazine employees, according to the US attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia.
It would then release the music on to the internet which would filter down to file-sharing services such as Kazaa and Morpheus before going on general release to the public.
Shumaker faces a maximum jail sentence of five years and a fine of $250,000 (£158,590) at a sentencing hearing on 7 November.
He was also accused of operating an invitation-only website where members could secretly discuss their activities.
He was caught as part of Operation Buccaneer, a worldwide investigation into music piracy on the internet.
US attorney Paul McNulty said this conviction was a warning to those who believed that the internet provided anonymity for criminal activities.
The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), which has spearheaded a campaign targeting music pirates, praised Shumaker's conviction.
"The theft of music on the internet is a serious crime, and
this action shows that the Justice Department means
business," RIAA President Cary Sherman said.