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Last Updated: Wednesday, 1 March 2006, 10:06 GMT
Men plead guilty over web piracy
Film piracy
Films, music, and computer games can be illegally shared on the web
Four men have pleaded guilty to being part of a ring that distributed illegal copies of music on the internet.

Derek Borchardt, of North Carolina; Matthew Howard, of Colorado; and Aaron Jones, of Oregon, pleaded guilty to criminal charges, US officials said.

George Hayes, 31, of Virginia, had previously pleaded guilty to one count of criminal copyright infringement.

The men face up to five years in jail and a $250,000 (142,600) fine when they are sentenced on 19 May.


The four were accused of being part of a ring of groups that acted as "first-providers" of copyrighted works to the internet.

The groups - with names such as Apocalypse Crew and Chromance - acquired digital copies of songs and albums before they were commercially released in the US and posted them to the internet.

The Justice Department said the four guilty pleas were the first involving members of "pre-release music piracy groups" stemming from an investigation called Operation FastLink, a global crackdown on online piracy.

"By stealing the creative product of talented people, this form of piracy deprives artists of the rewards they deserve," said US attorney Paul McNulty.

"If left unchecked, such crime would drain the incentive to create that enriches our lives."

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