back to article DrinkorDie warez leader jailed for 51 months

It took a while, but US Customs today got their man: Hew Raymond Griffiths, a ringleader of the infamous warez group DrinkorDie, was sentenced today to 51 months in a US prison. To recap, Griffiths, a 44 year-old British national, specialised in cracking software and distributing working versions over the internet - for free …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Far be it from me to be pedantic, but...

    "Whether committed with a gun or a keyboard - theft is theft," said U.S. Attorney Chuck Rosenberg, apparently ignorant of the distinction between "theft" and "copyright infringement"...

  2. Chris

    Theft?

    So if you distribute someone else's work without their permission, it's now called theft? So does that mean that Google's "we'll scan all books we can get our hands on and distribute them to all of our servers around the world" plan is also theft? It's the same thing.

    On a more serious note, I understand the economic aspects of copyright infringement, on a company scale (lost sales for the company) and on a national scale (lost taxes due to those lost sales). And I understand the need for some sort of retribution or punishment. But it strikes me as a bit ironic that in order to rectify the situation and provide punishment to the offenders, the U.S. taxpayers need to shell out even more money to keep these offenders in U.S. prisons.

  3. peter

    Got to say well done

    If US Customs really did catch a DOD member who wasn't in security terms suicidal or self destructive then "congratz" as the WOW peoples say. Nice work.

  4. Colin Wilson

    What worries me...

    ...is why the law in the country where the perp lived and carried out their chosen activity is somehow superceded by the laws of another country.

    There should have been _no_ extradition in this case.

    If the yanks want to set a precedent like this, will they now force the extradition of anyone worldwide who might have somehow breached US law in some obscure manner - jaywalking in Rome perhaps ? Polygamous marriage in a tribe in a jungle somewhere ?

    I'd love to see them extradite everyone with a hacked copy of Windows in China !

    The perp's "crime" might have had some financial impact, but it's absolutely insignificant when compared to crimes committed by the US Gov and funded by the american people.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Got to stop the US

    We have got to stop the US extraditing people willy-nilly and treating the planet as their jurisdictional playground. If the guy committed a crime in Australia, he should be tried in Australia.

    I can't really see the US authorities allowing, say, the UK to extradite a US national to the UK to be tried in the UK for a crime committed on US soil (and, perhaps, something that wasn't a crime in the USA anyway).

    I don't support what the guy did, but it is about time we lobbied our politicians to clip the imperialist wings of the USA.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Slight oversight

    Slight oversight...

    Cracking software and distribution is theft, maybe it's not a big deal to the Microsofts and Apples but to the small breakthrough programmers it's a matter of having no money. I'd imagine it's mainly all huge corp software cracked but it's still theft, albeit it's been going on since the internet has begun.

    It's relatively minor to being mugged at gun-point, but it's still theft... I feel for the small software developers.

  7. Jags

    Al Jazeera-ization of theRegister...

    Up untill now I thought of theRegister as a trusted & reputed online journal & recommended to many. has theRegister became a platform for anti-US sentiments? (just like al jazeera) 'coz if not this article writer shouldn't be at theRegister.

    "But, alas, he probably believes what he is saying, just like the rest of America's copyright ayatollahs.

    What a topsy-turvy world we live in"

    what is he trying to say by "America's copyright ayatollahs"???

    he sounds like EU & rest of the world does not have & does not believe in copyright laws...

    What if someone copycates theRegister site & figures out how to divert all traffic & all revenue of the site? is that ok with theRegister ???

    is the article writer gonna pay some thousands of people working at Microsoft, Adobe, Oracle, Symantec, McAfee to name a few?

  8. Giles Jones Gold badge

    Crazy

    51 months in jail?

    How is that going to help him change his ways?

    It's not like he beat anyone up, killed or raped anyone. While he was doing something dubious and illegal there are better ways to punish such people.

  9. Alexander Hanff

    As David said

    It is more than a little scary when a US Judge, who is supposed to be an expert on the law, is unable to distinguish between "theft" and "copyright infringement". I hope he appeals based on these grounds.

    The judge has just set a dangerous precedent.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    where's the gun?

    In response to Jags in particular (who thinks that El Reg is turning into Al Jaz) let me spell it out:

    WHERE'S THE GUN?

    Imagine someone stealing goods at gunpoint. See the gun? Okay, now imagine someone cracking software and sharing it. See the gun? I don't. If you do, please let me know where it is. And if you think making crap analogies to violent crime is useful or even permissible in this case, O do share.

  11. rosa

    It's crap!

    fancy abducting someone from their support networks in Australia to be dumped in an American gaol where the prison screws are known as 'peace officers'. Does America really need another slave in their system to work for the ever growing prison industry? How many of you have thought about where the design of your last shirt came from. I know of one particular large and fancy store in Australia that pays quite well for their people to go to NYC, buy a few items and then have them reproduced in China for their store. Imagine the millions of dollars NYC stores are losing as a result of such ' theft' but the difference is that it is condoned and probably acceptable practice amongst the rich but hey get someone who is not one of them doing something like that......I hear the chains rattling.....

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Emotive response

    El Reg is read worldwide... so it's understandable if the phrase "America's copyright ayatollahs" causes some emotive response in the US... after all just over 20 years ago the Iranians took over a US Embassy in Tehran and the US completely messed up a rescue mission - they've been upset by this ever since.

    Therefore, an emotive response from our US friends is understandable... not that those in the UK can be too enamored by the Iranians and our own Royal Navy fiasco !

    There is NO GUN and the "value" of the crime is different to the act of taking cash from a till at gunpoint. What I would like to see is the software companies prove the level of loss - e.g. Photoshop copies, I get so many emails offering me a copy for a few dollars. Come on, if we eradicated all the illegal software it wouldn't drive up sales of the copied expensive software, people would use The Gimp... similar case for MS Office... people would use Open Office etc. etc. Though one could argue the theft of a valuable vase at gunpoint is similar in nature (ie.. what is the actual "loss" - it's unlikely that the sale of vases is reduced), software has a low cost to repoduce. I'm against software theft (I work in the IT industry) but I think the punishment should fit the level of the crime.

  13. Richard Neill

    Mala in se?

    It seems to me that this guy did no real harm, and didn't even materially profit from his crimes. What he did isn't right, but the sentence is hugely disproportionate. I'm also sorry to see so many governments around the world yielding to US pressure - time our politicians stood up to them! Of course, we in the UK are just as bad at extraditing our civilians. I much prefer the Russians on this one for having a principled stance: no citizen may be extradited, period.

  14. Eric Healing

    Ship the all out...

    I think anybody in a Dritish prison who has committed a crime that is also illegal in the states should be put on a boat across the pond and the US tax payer should fork out for their up-keep.

    Are you listening Home Secretary - ship them out!

  15. Richard Silver badge

    Somebody get that judge a dictionary

    What DOD was doing was "Copyright Infringement"

    It is against the law in much of the world, and perpetrators should be punished - but it's not theft.

    Theft is when you deprive someone of something that they own - you take their money, their iPod, phone, whatever.

    After the theft, they dont have it anymore.

    "Copyright Theft" would require that somebody steal the copyright itself - in other words, they manage to get the copyright assigned to themselves rather than the original owner without paying for it.

    Certain companies appear to think that is normal business practice, and there have only ever been private civil cases brought when this happens - one party sues the other.

    The US Government have never got involved.

    This implies that Copyright Theft is in fact a legal and common business practice that is endorsed by the US Government (and many others)

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not a victim.

    This wasn't some end-user downloading products he couldn't afford to purchase anyway. I don't think its theft if someone making 30 thousand a year downloads a 10thousand dollar application suite for home use because obviously he couldn't afford to purchase it legitimately. This guy was running numerous topsites and organizing the cracking of applications to distribute to hundreds of thousands of people. He should have been punished in this way. There is a distinction between organizers and home-users who download from torrents etc. The whole argument is void now anyway, the availability of broadband has made piracy completely ineradicable. Also i am a retired member of the scene once on sites such as xray, tuf, taf, aks, Monopoly, etc. if you're oldschool you'll know those names. I remember well the feelings after rounds of busts driving home having actual fear there would be police cars in front of my home. Its the life these people and others have chosen and they knew well the risks as I did when I started. I quit after a close friend of mine vanished, presumed busted, after the second round of eu busts a couple years after the whole DoD thing. Save your sympathy for someone who is a true victim all members of the scene know the risks and accept them.

  17. Peter Lovatt

    Missing the point

    Its true that it is copyright infringement, not theft, but the company who wrote the software still had to pay all its bills, and relies on buyers to fund that.

    If you think doing something immoral is ok, so long as you screw a large entity, then you have strange values.

    If he wanted to make software available to the masses he should have written open source software.

    If you want to use software without paying use open source. If you want to use commercial software have the honesty to pay properly.

    I am not sure about the methods, sentence or the way he was bought to justice, but dont pretend he was a good guy, or harmless. He wasnt.

  18. Steve

    Americans upset about Ayatollahs, still?

    The US is far too sentimental if thats the case!

    I dont think the fact a few of our sailors been force fed spicy food and given some dodgy outfits even registers on most Brits minds - even if it did, I think the fact we quite spectacuarly destroyed the Iranian embassy all those years ago more than makes up for it - maybe the americans should give that a go sometime? - oh wait, your 'special' forces would just cock it up again..... Or maybe there just going to invade Iran in a few years anyway - that will make everything ok won't it......... :)

  19. Tim

    America to big for boots....yet again.

    America never listens to our extradition requests of U.S citizens, why should other countries listen to theirs. They reject even some legitimate claims where as Australia submit to even this clearly bogus claim with no merit. Americas laws are NOT applicable to the rest of the world for good reason.

    (Warez should set up camp in Iran, I can't see them ever giving in to such a request.)

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    the very long arm of US law

    I'm becoming very concerned at the ability of the USA to force extradition of foreign nationals from their own country, when the offence was committed in that country, or indeed, may not even be illegal in that country.

    The USA should either sign up to the World Court, or pack it in.

    Tim says "Warez should set up camp in Iran, I can't see them ever giving in to such a request."

    Those with sense already operate out of Russia.

  21. Andrew Bristow

    Team America: World Police strike again

    Its obvious that this guy committed a crime. However, as the crime was comitted in Australia why oh why do Team America: World Police get to ship him over to 'the land of the free'?? Its theft so they say. So why wasnt he procecuted for theft in Australia. We arent talking about someone who hacked the pentagon and got access to the X-Files here. This is someone who violated the copyright of computer games and applications developers. This should have been covered in Australias own courts.

    The main reason they did this was because they wanted a big name they could put behind bars in the US as a warning to everyone. It doesnt matter what country you live it. Team America will force your country to bend over and if they dont? Economic sanctions or invasion will follow no doubt!

  22. Dillon Pyron

    It's whatever we say it is

    The US is the sole remaining super power. Whatever we say goes. If we say somebody in Australia broke a US law and should be tried in the US, then that's the way it is. We're a super power, tough patooties. Ask Noriega. If you don't like it, hang around until we install a government that does.

    He should be glad he didn't die of a "heart attack".

    </sarcasm>

  23. Maligned Truth

    USA is Police Authority

    For several hundred years, Britain imposed it's law upon the seas, assisted by most of the peace loving countries of the world.

    Now that the USA does so, taking a turn in the role, and with the assistance of it's allies, some of the rules of business are being enforced, to protect businesses, large and small, everywhere.

    Thanks from all the 'little people' go out to all the former and current governments in the British Empire, the EU, Asia, Africa, and the East, who participate in law enforcement.

    If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen! Come over to Free, Open Source, Software, aka FOSS! http://distrowatch.com

    And, Vote!

    Yeah, I hate taxes, also, but, pay them under penalty of death.

  24. Ronny Cook

    Re: USA is Police Authority

    The problem isn't that he was convicted, but that he was convicted in a US court when what he did was also a crime under Australian law, and was done in Australia.

    Does this mean that when this sentence is over he'll then be tried again in Australia? The UK? Denmark? Every other country where copyright law holds?

    Australia probably has the toughest copyright laws in the world right now, as the Australia-US Free Trade agreement incorporated US copyright law into Australian law without US Fair Use provisions, giving us the worst of both worlds. (The "worlds" here being original Aussie copyright law and US copyright law.) Having him liable everywhere else as well is plain unfair. He thought he knew what he was getting himself in for only to find that the lawmakers in another country pre-empted the laws that he *knew* he was violating.

    I can imagine the reaction if Iran started requesting extradition of women from other countries because they weren't veiled, and so were subject to whatever penalty may apply.

    And hey, if non-payment of taxes carries the death penalty where you are, I'd suggest you emigrate. Losing your life because your accountant forgets to carry the 1 would really suck.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The dirty little secret...

    ...is that the software industry -- in music, movies and computer programs -- is piracy driven. Piracy creates demand and leads to standards.

    To cite just one example, the reason that Bill Gates is a billionaire is that piracy of MS-DOS, followed by Windows and then by Office, created an unstoppable installed base.

    The downloading of pirated software by private individuals for non-commercial use, as opposed to multiple-copy piracy or out-and-out counterfeiting -- does not cause software companies to lose sales revenue.

    One more thing: The downloading and trading of pirated software is a hobby, not a commercial activity. People do it because it is fun.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Doesn't theft with a gun have a name?

    >> "Whether committed with a gun or a keyboard - theft is theft," said U.S. Attorney Chuck Rosenberg, who led the prosecution against Griffiths.

    As many others have pointed out, Griffiths was guilty of copyright infringment (and probably aiding others too, I suppose) - perhaps theft with a keyboard. However, theft with a gun is something entirely different, it's armed robbery - an entirely different crime.

    I can't recall the last time a copyright infringement went wrong and someone was killed (though I am sure someone with better google skills will find it).

  27. George Johnson

    Like it will make an ounce of difference!

    I went to a popular torrent site about a week after Shrek 3 came out, after 11 days, there had been 96,450 downloads completed of the torrent, with about 4,000 "serving" and 6,000 waiting to complete! That's one copyrighted item, in one torrent site! One man in jail will make no difference at all, not not little, tiny jot!

  28. dreadful scathe

    Whats the big deal?

    "But, alas, he probably believes what he is saying, just like the rest of America's copyright ayatollahs. What a topsy-turvy world we live in"

    >what is he trying to say by "America's copyright ayatollahs"???

    Its not that complicated is it? The US judge suggests armed robbery is the same as copying some computer files - the ayatollah analogy works pretty well for me.

  29. Gav

    What's that at the bottom right of this web page?

    Why, it's a copyright! Fancy that! Guess it's ok to rip off other people's work and ignore their copyright, but The Register gets to protect theirs.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    US Deportation

    How about the US now Deport the two US Pilots found guilty of the Murder of UK Troops?

    Sorry. I forgot, it dosent work that way dose it.

    BTW when the British did Impose its law apon the Sea it wasent going around bullying anyone, it was fighting with the Spanish Duch and French. This was a War that had been going on for over a thousand years.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Piracy and Poverty

    The extreme poverty forced upon Bill Gates and other software moguls due to piracy causes much heart rending and sadness throughout the world.

    The expansion of "Silicon Valley" sites across the world tells us that the piracy effect is causing untold suffering amongst the deprived CEO's in IT.

    If the pirates understood the deprivation caused by their actions, maybe they would think twice before adopting these ruinous tatics ?

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Gutless Aussies

    As an Australian, I can tell you the real crime here. That is the gutless, coward Aussie authorities that let this guy get shipped off shore to do "hard time" in an United States Federal prison hell hole while Dr Ditpak Patel ( aka Dr Death ) enjoys his freedom in the USA, even though he is on murder charges in the Australian State of Queensland. The Coward government of John Howard should have protected this sorry individual instead of sending him to the US to be thrown on the 'mercy' of the US 'justice' system. Or at least held up the extradition and used him as a bargaining chip to get Dr Death back here to face a court for his murderous medical incompetence. But Dr Death knew that the country that protects criminals the best is the US so he fled there, plus Australian government will always a come a running the US master blows the dog whistle. Shame Coward Howard shame.

  33. nikos

    string them high!

    as a small software (shareware) vendor I am exceedingly happy to see such a paradigmatic cracker sentence, that should set an example to the rest of the warez "community"

    although this particular cracker (alledgedly) did not profit from the copyright infringement, nowadays cracks are big business, charging memberships and whatnot. It isn't just a sport any more

    next step we need some crucifixion of a chinese cracker, that's the hot spot nowadays.

  34. Ted Treen

    One way street

    And yet for "non-violent financial crimes" the Home of the Brave, Land of the Free will not allow extradition of it's citizens to other countries. So much for justice.

  35. Chris Pasiuk

    Bogus

    There was some muttering a few weeks back where all of us "pirates" would tremble due to a federal law that Gonzales was pitching. It was to "relax" the evidence statues to include intent as well as commitment. I read that one and the current copyright law with one distinction noted: Copyright infringment is a CIVIL offence that you can be sued for. Theft is defined as the production and distribution of copyrighted information for profit. Every paragraph and clause in federal copyright theft law is in reference to the sale or profit from and not for personal use and distribution. Copyright theft statues are geared to stop the "discount" DVD suppliers and counterfeit software vendors. This is the first case I've heard where this is applying to an individual that was not profiting from his actions. (I could be wrong here if he was charging for site membership or something like that) Because infringement is a civil offence it has to be initiated by the company that is being infringed as a law suit--hence why the RIAA has their ghestapo legal team issuing out suits to every teen with a torrent client and not sicking the Feds after them. I'm not a lawyer so take this with for what it's worth and the laws may be different in other countries. This shouldn't have become an extredition case but a fat law suit case by every software company that has had their product cracked. It would be a far greater punishment as he would effectively be paying them off till he dies.

  36. Marc

    You guys need to relax.

    Seriously.

    The story only mentions the US setting up an operation to get this guy. There is no mention of any other country going after the guy. What would 'you' do with him? Hand him over to a government or jurisdiction that doesn't seem to care about his capture?

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Does anyone recall the timing of that bust?

    It was announced with great fanfare that after months of preparation and millions invested, the FBI busted DoD.

    This was 3 months after the Bureau's historic, no, "colossal", no, let's make that "treasonous" failure to thwart something which really mattered to National Security, the 9/11 plot. s

    The FBI's utter failure as a National Security instrument was again echoed by the Hansen case a few months later. But they got their warez-guy, didn't they?

  38. Andrew Wilson

    Only in the US.

    Sometimes you are left to wonder where they find them!

    "Whether committed with a gun or a keyboard - theft is theft,"

    Gun crime is still relatively rare in the UK compared to the US (as I guess it is in much of the rest of the developed world). When it happens, however, it ends lives and destroys communities. Has the US become so immune to this crime that it is so easily compared with fraud which doesn't take lives? Or is it just self promotion from yet another soundbite lawyer?

  39. Ape TimeLord

    Gutless Aussies - concur

    I agree with you completely.

    I now live in the UK with no wish to go back to a country with a spineless government. BTW Labour is just as bad.

    The USA has been meddling in Australian politics since 1945.

    No Australian politician can afford to upset USA - we still have no control over Pine Gap.

    I have no trust in the USA copyright laws and their Patent system is corrupt - whoever has the most money wins - Most other countries review patents thoroughly and and only award if the patent is truly valid - I have tried and it was quite an arduous task in Australia.

    As someone else pointed out quite correctly, illegal copies of software increase the install base and therefore profits.

    I am in IT and shy away from all things USA - I prefer not to use Microsoft products as they are not reliable. MS Windows is not multi-tasking, not multi-user and causes many problems because of their archaic operating system (MVS?? is older and less powerful than Unix).

    Yes I use Ubuntu and apart from MS Project can read and write any MS format.

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