OPERATION BUCCANEER

seal_of_the_united_states_department_of_justice

Operation Buccaneer is a coordinated international copyright piracy investigation and prosecution enforcement action. The action was spearheaded by the US Department of Justice.

Copyright infringement is a US federal crime punishable by up to five years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000.

In the early 1990’s, groups of individuals working in underground networks organized themselves into competitive gangs that obtained software, “cracked,” or “ripped” it (i.e. removed various forms of copy protections) and posted it on the Internet for other members of the group. This network of individuals and groups, numbering in the thousands, evolved into what is today loosely called the “warez scene” or community.

At the top of the warez scene are a handful of “release” groups that specialize in being the first to obtain, crack (i.e., remove or circumvent copyright protections), and distribute or release the latest software, games, movies, or music to the warez scene. Frequently, these new “releases” reach the Internet days or weeks before the product is commercially available. Release groups compete against each other to attain a reputation as the fastest providers of the highest quality, free pirated software, including utility and application software, computer and console games, and movies.

As technology has advanced, the top warez groups have become more technologically sophisticated and security conscious to avoid detection by law enforcement. Many of the elite groups communicate about warez business only through private e-mail servers, sometimes using encryption, and in closed, invitation-only IRC channels. Additionally, most members disguise their true IP addresses (and thus their true locations) when communicating in IRC by routing their communications through “virtual hosts” or bounce boxes. Finally, many warez groups protect their large FTP archive sites — which can contain tens of thousands of copies of software, games, music, and music for free downloading — through a combination of security measures that include bounce sites, automated programs for IP address and user password verification, and the use of non- standard ports for FTP traffic.

Eventually releases were posted in high volume on Usenet typically in alt.binaries.cd.image even though most releases were dvd for many years. Given the large number of Usenet servers it’s unlikely that the notorious alt.binaries.cd.image can ever be shut down. Usenet servers need several hard disks to act as a buffer so operating a server is still a costly endeavor.

On December 11, 2001, in a coordinated international effort, the U.S. Customs Service and the Department of Justice executed, or caused to be executed, more than 65 searches in the U.S. and five foreign countries.

As of October, 2002, 16 defendants have been convicted in the U.S. of felony criminal copyright offenses, including conspiracy to commit those offenses, and 13 defendants have been sentenced to federal prison terms of up to 46 months. These are the longest sentences ever imposed in the United States for Internet copyright piracy. Additional guilty pleas and sentencing are scheduled in the coming months.

KNOWN CONVICTED PERSONS

NameScenenameConviction dateOffenseSentence
Berry, RichardFloodApril 29, 2002Conspiracy 
Buchanan, AnthonyspaceaceAugust 19, 2002Criminal copyright infringement 
Clardy, AndrewDoodadApril 4, 2002Criminal copyright infringement
Aiding and abetting
 
Cole, Myront3rminalJuly 10, 2002Criminal copyright infringement 
Eiser, DerekPsychodJune 21, 2002Criminal copyright infringement 
Erickson, BarryRadslMay 2, 2002Conspiracy 
Grimes, David A.ChevelleMarch 4, 2002Conspiracy 
Gross, RoberttargetpracticeMay 22, 2002Criminal copyright infringement 
Hunt, NathanAzideApril 3, 2002Conspiracy 
Kartadinata, KentTenkukenJanuary 31, 2002Conspiracy 
Kelly, MichaelEruptApril 10, 2002Conspiracy 
Nawara, StaceyAvecMarch 19, 2002Conspiracy 
Nguyen, MikeHackratJanuary 31, 2002Conspiracy 
Pattanayek, SabujBujApril 11, 2002Conspiracy41 months
Riffe, JohnblueMay 9, 2002Criminal copyright infringement 
Sankus, John Jr.eriFlleHFebruary 27, 2002Conspiracy46 months
Tresco, ChristopherBigRarMay 28, 2002Conspiracy33 months

Drink or Die members included: John Sankus, Barry Erickson, David Grimes, Stacy Nawara, Natan Hunt, Sabuj Pattanayek, Michael Kelly, Andrew Clardy, Christopher Tresco, Derek Eiser, Kent Kartadinata, Richard Berry, Robert Gross, Myron Cole, Anthony Buchanan.

DrinkOrDie consisted of approximately 65 group members from more than 12 countries, including the United Kingdom, Australia, Sweden, Norway, and Finland. Sabuj Pattanayek participated in virtually every aspect of the group’s “release” work.