DOJ files first ever criminal charges against mobile app pirates

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The US Department of Justice has long taken issue with large-scale copyright infringement. It’s gone after pirates of various different kinds of content, including music and movies—who could forget the FBI raid on the home of Megaupload’s Kim Dotcom.

But up until now, the DOJ has never gone after mobile app pirates. That changed this week, though, when it filed charges against 4 men behind Android app piracy websites Snappzmarket and Appbucket for conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement…

Bloomberg has the report (via The Verge):

“Two separate schemes for illegally copying and distributing copyrighted applications for Android mobile devices led to a first-of-its-kind piracy case against four men, the U.S. Justice Department said.

“These crimes involve the large-scale violation of intellectual property rights in a relatively new and rapidly growing market,” Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman said yesterday in a statement. “This represents the first counterfeit apps case by the Department of Justice.”

Kody Jon Peterson, age 22, is one of the 4 men arrested for his work on the SnappzMarket, which reproduced and distributed more than 1 million pirated Android apps. The 3 others—Thomas Dye, Nicholas Narbone and Thomas Pace—worked for Appbucket.

According to the filing, investigators have access to chat logs between Peterson and his conspirators where they specifically agree to ignore copyright takedown requests under the DMCA. And they believe his piracy facilitated close to $2 million in illegal downloads.

It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out. Piracy has been a major problem for developers—particularly on Android, though it’s definitely rampant on iOS too—for years now, and this case could lay the foundation for the future prosecution of mobile app pirates.