THREE MEN have been charged with software copyright infringement and exporting technology to China by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) service.
Two of the men are from China, said ICE, while a third used to work at NASA. They are accused of costing business $100m by 'pirating' and exporting software.
Xiang Li, 35, and Chun Yan Li, 33, of Chengdu, China have been charged by a federal grand jury, and while the former is under arrest and facing 20 years in federal prison and a fine of at least $500,000, Yan is on the lam.
"Counterfeiting and intellectual property theft are seriously undermining U.S. business and innovation - more than $100 million in lost revenue in this one case alone," said ICE director John Morton.
"Homeland Security Investigations is committed to protecting American industry and U.S. jobs from people like Xiang Li, the leader of this criminal organization who believed he could commit these crimes without being held accountable for his actions. Li thought he was safe from the long arm of U.S. law enforcement, hiding halfway around the world in cyberspace anonymity. He was sorely mistaken."
Copyrighted software from 150 manufacturers allegedly copied by Xiang Li and Chun Yan Li was sold through a web site called Crack 99. US Homeland Security said that it began its investigation after coming across the web site and its wares.
It found three web sites offering as many as 2,000 cracked software products for sale at a fraction of legitmate pricing. Offered software included products used in engineering, manufacturing, space exploration, aerospace simulation and design, mathematics, storm water management, explosives simulation and manufacturing plant design. So, not your run of the mill stuff.
According to the investigation, while the highest price of items on sale through the rogue web sites was $1,200, the highest priced piece of software has a retail price tag of over $1m.
The prices listed for the 'pirated' software on the web sites ranged from $20 to $1,200. The actual retail value of these software products ranged from several hundred dollars to over $1m.
Also charged was Cosburn Wedderburn, 38, a former NASA employee. He has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement. Court documents said that he was a willing participant in illegal sales and bought as much as $1m worth of software through the web sites.
Wedderburn faces up to five years in federal prison and a fine of at least $250,000. µ
Sign up for INQbot – a weekly roundup of the best from the INQ