A Pennsylvania man pleaded guilty in federal court to copyright infringement charges for his involvement with the peer-to-peer site Elite Torrent, a service that made Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith available for download six hours before its theatrical release.
The Department of Justice made the announcement that 24-year-old Scott R. McCausland of Erie, Pa., will face sentencing in December. McCausland faces up to five years in prison, a fine of $250,000 and three years supervised release for violation of the Family Entertainment Copyright Act.
Elite Torrents, a p2p network based on BitTorrent technology came under the eye of a joint investigation entitled Operation D-Elite by the FBI’s Computer and Technology Crime High-Tech Response Team (CATCH) and the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
“This groundbreaking case demonstrates the commitment of the Department of Justice to prosecute individuals who use new technologies to undermine the copyright laws,” said U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan. “It also serves as an example to those who believe that there is anonymity in cyberspace.”
This is the first criminal enforcement action against copyright infringement on a P2P network using BitTorrent technology. McCausland’s conviction is the third arising from a federal crackdown against the first providers of pirated works to Elite Torrents.
At its peak, says the DOJ, the Elite Torrents network attracted over 133,000 members, distributing over 2 million copies of movies, software, music, and games. Federal agents shut down the site on May 25, 2005 by seizing its main server and replacing its log-in web page with an official notice.
The notice read: “This Site Has Been Permanently Shut Down by the FBI and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).”
It was read over half a million times.
Eighteen hours after Revenge of the Sith was released in theaters, it had been downloaded 10,000 times through Elite Networks. The federal agencies say the Motion Picture Association of America offered “substantial assistance” in the investigation.