US Man Pleads Guilty to Music Piracy Charges

A California man who participated in a so-called warez music-sharing group faces a sentence of five years in prison and a US$250,000 fine after pleading guilty to copyright infringement charges in a California court.

Richard Franco Montejano, 29, of Harbor City, California, pleaded guilty Monday in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California to one count of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement, the U.S. Department of Justice said.

From 2002 to September 2007, Montejano was a member and leader of an Internet music release group known as Old School Classics or OSC, the DOJ said. OSC was a warez group that specialized in the unauthorized reproduction and distribution of copyright music using the Internet, the agency said.

Warez groups are music piracy organizations that seek to release music before it is commercially available. Warez groups share pre-release music with similar groups and with a wider audience through peer-to-peer networks, the DOJ said.

Montejano maintained a computer server at his Harbor City residence and allowed other OSC members to upload pirated music there, the DOJ said in a press release. A member of OSC uploaded the Kanye West album "Graduation" to Montejano's server in August 2007, more than one week before the album was commercially released. Montejano used his server to upload pirated music to other warez group servers, the agency said.

After the break-up in January 2007 of another warez group known as Rabid Neurosis or RNS, OSC began obtaining pre-release music from two former RNS members known to Montejano as "adeg" and "StJames." Both adeg and StJames, whose names are Bennie Glover and James Anthony Dockery, were employed at a North Carolina factory that manufactured compact discs for Universal Music Group and its subsidiary labels.

Glover and Dockery both pleaded guilty in October 2009 to conspiracy to commit willful copyright infringement. Both defendants were sentenced in January 2010 to three months in prison and two years of supervised release.

Montejano's sentencing is scheduled for July 25.

The case is part of a multiyear federal investigation of organized piracy groups responsible for the illegal distribution of significant amounts of copyright movies, software, games and music through the Internet. The investigation of music piracy groups was led by agents from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation in the Washington, D.C., area.

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's e-mail address is grant_gross@idg.com.

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