It took a while, but US Customs today got their man: Hew Raymond Griffiths, a ringleader of the infamous warez group DrinkorDie, was sentenced today to 51 months in a US prison.
To recap, Griffiths, a 44 year-old British national, specialised in cracking software and distributing working versions over the internet - for free. In 1999, he stupidly boasted to an online publication that he controlled the world's 20 biggest warez servers and that he would never be caught.
Talk about red rag to a bull. US Customs set up three operations to target groups swapping warez - illegal software - over the internet, most especially DrinkorDie, the biggest and most notorious of them all.
Inevitably, in 2001, Griffiths was caught - like many other members of DrinkorDie. He was sent to the US for trial, instead of facing charges in Australia, where he lived when he committed his crimes. The UK took a different view on jurisdiction. In 2005, two British members of Drink or Die were sentenced to jail, after a court trial in England, for their roles in distributing warez.
Griffiths spent three years in detention in Australia, fighting extradition. It is unclear if the time already spent in imprisonment will be deducted from his sentence. We suspect not - judging by the extreme lengths to which America is prepared to go to stamp out copyright theft.
"Whether committed with a gun or a keyboard - theft is theft," said U.S. Attorney Chuck Rosenberg, who led the prosecution against Griffiths. If we were being charitable, we put this down to rhetorical excess, the speechifying of an excitable man. But, alas, he probably believes what he is saying, just like the rest of America's copyright ayatollahs.
What a topsy-turvy world we live in. ®