In 2010, U.S. authorities launched Operation in Our Sites, an anti-piracy campaign aimed at taking copyright-infringing sites offline.
After targeting thousands of domains linked to counterfeit goods and making several arrests connected to file-sharing sites, renewed efforts last year saw the closure of two large music sites.
During October 2014, RockDizFile.com and RockDizMusic.com were taken offline to be replaced by the ICE – Homeland Security Investigations seizure banner.
Founded in 2011, RockDizMusic had acted as an index for popular new music while RockDizFile was a file-storage site serving as a storage facility for the former.
During the period of quiet following their shutdown it transpired that their operator, Rocky P. Ouprasith of Charlotte, N.C., had been arrested following the execution of an HSI search warrant.
Papers filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia last August claimed that both sites had been operated for profit, with Ouprasith sourcing pirated content online, uploading it to RockDizFile, and offering it for download on RockDizMusic.
According to the RIAA, in 2013 RockDizFile emerged “as the second largest online file-sharing site in the reproduction and distribution of infringing copies of copyrighted music in the United States.” Court documents placed the market value of the content pirated by the site at more than $6 million.
In response, Ouprasith entered a guilty plea, admitting one count of criminal copyright infringement. In return he risked five years in prison and fines of up to $250,000. Yesterday the 23-year-old was sentenced and it’s bad, but not as bad it could’ve been.
According to the Department of Justice, Ouprasith was sentenced by Chief U.S. District Judge Rebecca Beach Smith of the Eastern District of Virginia to serve a total of 36 months in prison.
In addition, Ouprasith was sentenced to two years supervised release and was ordered to forfeit almost $51,000 and pay more than $45,000 in restitution. The latter will become payable 60 days after his release at the rate of $200.00 per month or 25% of net income, whichever is greater. No fines were imposed.
The DoJ said that Ouprasith admitted obtaining copyrighted songs and albums, some pre-release, and uploading them to RockDizFile while encouraging affiliates to do the same. Ouprasith further admitted that he paid those affiliates based on the number of times their content was downloaded from his websites.
Another apparently aggravating factor was how Ouprasith handled copyright complaints. Instead of taking down content as required, according to the DoJ he either ignored the requests or simply pretended to take remedial action.
Ouprasith’s attorney, Bobby Howlett Jr. of Norfolk, told the Washington Post that while he’s never happy with a custodial sentence, in this instance he’s satisfied with the conclusion of the case.
“I’m happy with the outcome — of course, I don’t want many of my clients to go jail and I hate that he’s a young kid with no criminal history facing this, but it could’ve been worse,” Howlett said.
The RIAA welcomed the sentence and said that Ouprasith’s incarceration should serve as a warning to others thinking of embarking on a similar venture.
“We congratulate the Department of Justice and Homeland Security Investigations and thank them for their diligence and hard work to bring to justice those who cause millions of dollars in damage to music creators,” said Brad Buckles, EVP of Anti-Piracy.
“This sentence should send a message that operating a flagrantly illegal business that steals from others by engaging in criminal activity online has real consequences.”
While three years is a long time inside for a young man, the Court did recommend that the Bureau of Prisons allow Ouprasith to “further his education towards obtaining his college degree” in a facility as “close as possible” to North Carolina.
The 23-year-old will also get time to put his affairs in order and spend Christmas with family and friends. His sentence is set to begin on January 4, 2016.