Computer Crime has taken a new turn since the invention of the downloadable MP3 has brought a new way for people to allegedly steal music. Then, as downloading and streaming media files online became more popular so did the alleged theft of TV shows, movies, and software. If there was a way to access it online, there was a way to get into trouble for downloading it without paying for it
Now, federal officials are cracking down on mobile apps for cellular phones. Three different websites were recently shut down after a raid by the DOJ due to alleged copyright infringement. The three sites were distributing over 50,000 illegal copies of apps meant for Google’s Android-based phones. Because the websites store the apps on servers overseas, French and Dutch authorities were called in to assist the United States in the raid. This is considered to be the first such raid of its kind.
Much like music, videos, and software, apps are protected by federal copyright laws. Earlier this year, the file sharing website Megaupload.com was shut down for illegally offering thousands of media files for download. Federal law requires anyone looking to sell the app must get the permission of the developer/creator to distribute it and then must reimburse the creator at least a portion of the sales proceeds. The raided websites were providing the apps for free or for a reduced price to anyone who wished to download them and giving nothing back to the developers.
Violating federal copyright laws is no slap on the wrist. Those convicted of the computer crime of copyright infringement can spend up to five years in prison or more depending on the severity of the crime.
However, it is not just the owners of the websites that could face prosecution or a civil lawsuit for significant damages; it is also the people that choose to download the apps as well. Cell phone apps are no different than music files and there are numerous examples of people being fined for downloading music illegally. In 2007 and 2009, the same woman was fined a total of $2 million for illegally downloading over 80,000 songs. Apparently, no arrests for downloading cell phone apps have been made so far, but that is not to say it will never happen. The consequences if caught can be severe.
If you are being investigated or sued for copyright infringement, it is critical that you obtain the services of a qualified and experienced criminal defense attorney that is familiar with both the potentially criminal and /or civil consequences of such allegations. Michigan Criminal Defense Attorney John Freeman has such experience. Do not hesitate to contact him today.