Arizona Prosecutes Teen for Internet Piracy

While Internet piracy and copyright infringement are usually thought ofas federal crimes, one University of Arizona student found that that is notalways the case.

Parvin Dhaliwal, 18, pleaded guilty last month in Maricopa County, Arizona, topossession of counterfeit marks, or unauthorized copies ofintellectual property. The FBI, which had found copies of movies that hadnot yet been released on DVD on his computer, referred the case to the locallevel because Dhaliwal was 17 when he committed the crime, although he was18 by the time he was charged, the county attorney’s office said.

Usually Federal Offense

The Internet piracy conviction is believed to be the first under a staterather than federal law.

Dhaliwal was sentenced to a three-month deferred jail term, three yearsprobation, 200 hours of community service and a US$5,400 fine. He is alsoforbidden from ever using peer-to-peer software again and must take a classon copyright infringement. If he had been prosecuted under federal law,Dhaliwal would have faced a mandatory minimum sentence of three months injail.

The county attorney’s office said Dhaliwal’s computer contained $50 millionworth of movies and music, but there was no explanation of how that figurewas arrived at.

FBI Investigation

The FBI works hand-in-hand with the Recording Industry Association ofAmerica (RIAA) and the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) bymonitoring file-sharing Web sites. The pirated material, which prosecutorssaid Dhaliwal was copying and selling, was found through a search warrantissued to a federal task force.

“The kid was stealing, he got caught, he got his hand slapped,” DavidMcClure, president of the U.S. Internet Industry Association, said about thecase. “It could have been worse for him.”

He told TechNewsWorld that he didn’t believe the case had wide-rangingramifications. Dhaliwal allegedly copied and sold the songs and movies,whereas much file sharing is done for personal use.

Thousands of Civil Suits

The RIAA has filed 9,100 lawsuits against people it claims have downloadedmusic files illegally; 1,900 of those have been settled.

McClure points out that none of the lawsuits has gone to court. The reason for this, he said, is that the RIAA is afraid it will lose. Its strategy, headded, is to seek less money to settle than it would cost those named in thesuits to go to court.

“The whole RIAA lawsuit situation is going to look like the biggestmarketing blunder of the century,” McClure said. “How smart is it to sueyour customers?”

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