Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Sentences in Piracy Cases

For those who are afraid that the Booker case will cause white collar offenders to be placed on the streets, as opposed to being behind bars, the Eighth Circuit's ruling in a software piracy case should put those fears to rest.  Professor Doug Berman in his superb sentencing blog here discusses the court's recent opinion in the case of United States v. Susel.  In discussing the court's affirming of a 51 month prison sentence of "an employee of a software manufacturer who 'stole copyrighted software from his workplace, sold the software on eBay, and delivered the software to purchasers through the United States mail," Professor Berman states that:

"Because the defendant in Susel does not seem like a major software pirate, I cannot help but ponder whether his sentence of 51 months' imprisonment complies with the statutory mandate in 3553(a) that the district judge 'impose a sentence sufficient, but not greater than necessary, to comply with the purposes [of punishment] set forth in' the Sentencing Reform Act.  Also, what of the statutory obligation, detailed in 3553(a)(6), to 'avoid unwarranted sentence disparities among defendants with similar records who have been found guilty of similar conduct'?"

Also this week, a Manhattan man received a sentence of 37 months for "selling and distributing pirated software valued at over $1 million." (See DOJ Press release here) (see Center for Economic Crimes -Fraud Update here) Although a much lesser sentence for the same basic crime, the government is pleased with this severe sentence. Michael Garcia, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of NY, stated:

"This lengthy sentence should serve as a warning to those in the manufacture and sale of pirated  computer software, as well other forms of criminal copyright infringement.  Intellectual property theft is a serious crime that victimizes companies large and small, as well as their employees and shareholders."


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