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Last Updated: Monday, 25 June 2007, 13:56 GMT 14:56 UK
Leader of net piracy gang jailed
Pirated software, AP
Software piracy is rampant in many nations
A Briton has been jailed for 51 months after pleading guilty to software piracy charges in the US.

From his Australia home Hew Griffiths led the DrinkOrDie piracy group which specialised in cracking protection codes on software, music and movies.

The US Department of Justice estimated that DrinkOrDie created and spread more than $50m (25m) of pirated goods.

DrinkOrDie was broken up in 2001 following a series of raids co-ordinated by the DoJ.

Although arrested several years ago, Mr Griffiths has spent the last three years in an Australian jail fighting extradition to America to face charges. The extradition was one of the first for an intellectual property crime.

"Whether committed with a gun or a keyboard - theft is theft," said US Attorney Chuck Rosenberg in a statement.

Sentenced to 51 months on a charge of "conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement", Mr Griffiths is likely only to serve a further 15 months in jail because of the time he has already spent incarcerated in Australia.

DrinkOrDie is thought to have been founded in Russia in 1993 and offered people cracked versions of programs from Microsoft, Adobe, Autodesk, Symantec, Novell and many others.

Under the banner of Operation Buccaneer, 70 raids were carried out to dismantle the group. Most raids took place in the US but law enforcement authorities in United Kingdom, Finland, Norway, Sweden and Australia also took part.

More than 30 people are known to have been jailed as a result of arrests made during the operation.

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