Pirate App Store Operator Jailed for Criminal Copyright Infringement

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Five years after the FBI took down several pirate Android app 'stores,' SnappzMarket's Joshua Taylor has been sentenced to 16 months in prison. While the defense highlighted that Taylor only played a small role as 'server guy,' the judge ruled that a lengthy jail sentence is appropriate.

Assisted by police in France and the Netherlands, the FBI took down the “pirate” Android stores Appbucket, Applanet and SnappzMarket during the summer of 2012.

The domain seizures were the first ever against “rogue” mobile app marketplaces and followed similar actions against BitTorrent and streaming sites.

During the years that followed several people connected to the Android app sites were arrested and indicted. This is also true for the now 27-year-old Joshua Taylor, a resident of Kentwood, Michigan.

Taylor, who arranged SnappzMarket’s servers, was previously convicted of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement and has now been sentenced (pdf) to 16 months in prison for his role in the operation.

According to the Department of Justice, SnappzMarket distributed more than one million pirated apps with a retail value exceeding $1.7 million.

In a sentencing memorandum, defense attorney John Lovell argued that his client never made any “profits” from his involvement, noting that the co-conspirators played a much more significant role.

“Josh Taylor is 27 years old with no other criminal history. His offense involved procuring storage space for the masterminds of the operation,” Lovell wrote. “SnappzMarket did not pay Josh. Whatever profits were generated by SnappzMarket were split between Sharp and Peterson.”

The court record further reveals that Taylor had a very tough childhood and was plagued by both mental and physical challenges.

According to the testimony from his psychologist Meredith Davis, he didn’t understand that he was committing a felonious act, and lacked the cognitive capacity do so intentionally.

The psychologist stressed that her client deeply regrets what happened and she doesn’t think it’s likely that would run into similar problems in the future.

“He has expressed a great deal of remorse for his involvement in the charged crime. Mr. Taylor possesses a high degree of vigilance to avoid any further contact with the law,” Davis wrote to the court.

Despite these arguments, U.S. District Judge Timothy Batten Sr. found a prison sentence appropriate.

While 16 months is significant, it’s not as much as 46 month prison sentence co-conspirator Scott Walton received earlier. Kody Peterson, another key SnappzMarket operator, only received a one year sentence but he agreed to do undercover work for the FBI.

Gary Edwin Sharp II, the only remaining defendant, previously pleaded guilty and is currently scheduled to be sentenced in November. Like the others, he also faces up to several years in prison.

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