U.S. Man Pleads Guilty in P-to-P Crackdown

A man from Columbus, Ga., has pleaded guilty to two felonies related to distribution of copyright materials over a peer-to-peer network, the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) announced Monday.

The plea of Sam Kuonen, 24, is the fifth in a series of convictions arising from the DoJ's Operation D-Elite, an ongoing crackdown against the distribution of movies, software, games and music over P-to-P networks using the BitTorrent file-sharing technology.

Kuonen was charged with criminal copyright infringement and conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement. He faces up to five years in prison and a US$250,000 fine, the DoJ said. He faces sentencing July 16 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas.

Operation D-Elite has targeted leading members of a P-to-P network known as Elite Torrents, the DoJ said in a news release. In its prime, Elite Torrents attracted more than 133,000 members and facilitated the illegal distribution of more than 17,800 titles, which were downloaded over 2 million times, the DOJ said.

The Elite Torrents network often included illegal copies of copyright works before they were available in retail stores or movie theaters. Kuonen was an "uploader" to the Elite Torrents network, responsible for supplying the network with the first copy of a particular movie or other title that was then made available to the entire network for downloading, the DoJ said.

On May 25, 2005, federal agents shut down the Elite Torrents network by taking control of its main server. Authorities replaced the existing webpage with a law enforcement message announcing that, "This Site Has Been Permanently Shut Down by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)." Within only one week, the law enforcement message was viewed more than a half-million times.

The Motion Picture Association of America provided "substantial" assistance to the investigation, the DoJ said.

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