Monday, May 2, 2016
Convictions Part of First-Ever Prosecution of Mobile App Piracy Groups
A leading member of an online piracy group pleaded guilty today and a co-conspirator pleaded guilty in January for their roles in a scheme to distribute more than four million pirated copies of copyrighted Android apps with a total retail value of more than $17 million.
Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney John A. Horn of the Northern District of Georgia and Special Agent in Charge J. Britt Johnson of the FBI’s Atlanta Field Office made the announcement.
Aaron Blake Buckley, 22, of Moss Point, Mississippi, pleaded guilty today to one count of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement and to one count of criminal copyright infringement before U.S. District Judge Timothy C. Batten Sr. of the Northern District of Georgia. Gary Edwin Sharp II, 29, of Uxbridge, Massachusetts, a co-conspirator, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement on Jan. 13. The defendants are scheduled to be sentenced on Aug. 1.
According to statements made in court, the conspirators identified themselves as members of the Applanet Group. From May 2010 through August 2012, they conspired to reproduce and distribute more than four million copies of copyrighted Android apps through the Applanet alternative online market without permission from the victim copyright owners, who would otherwise sell copies of the apps on legitimate online markets for a fee. On Aug. 21, 2012, the FBI seized the Applanet website, which marked the first seizure of the domain name for a website involving a mobile device app marketplace.
Sharp also pleaded guilty for his role in conspiring to commit criminal copyright infringement as the leader of another online piracy group, the SnappzMarket Group. Sharp admitted that he and two other members of the SnappzMarket Group conspired to distribute more than one million pirated copies of copyrighted Android apps with a total retail value of more than $1.7 million through the group’s website, which was also seized on Aug. 21, 2012.
The FBI investigated the case. Assistant Deputy Chief John H. Zacharia of the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section (CCIPS) and Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Bly of the Northern District of Georgia are prosecuting the case. The CCIPS Cybercrime Lab and the Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs provided significant assistance.
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