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Copyright Cases - U.S. v. Mitchell (N.D. Cal.) (Internet Auction Sales)

July 10, 2002

U.S. Department of Justice
United States Attorney
Northern District of California
11th Floor, Federal Building
450 Golden Gate Avenue,
Box 36055
San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 436-7200
Fax: (415) 436-7234

Florida Man Pleads Guilty to Selling Counterfeit Software Labels on Auction Web Sites

The United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California announced that Joseph Edwin Mitchell has pled guilty to 10 felony counts of trafficking in counterfeit labels for copies of computer programs. Mr. Mitchell, 45 of Fort Walton Beach, Florida, was indicted by a federal grand jury in San Jose, California on January 9, 2002. He was charged with 10 counts of trafficking in counterfeit labels for copies of computer programs in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2318, and one count of conspiracy to traffic in counterfeit labels for copies of computer programs and to commit criminal copyright infringement in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371. Mr. Mitchell pled guilty to all 10 of the trafficking counts, and the government will decide at the time of sentencing whether to further pursue the conspiracy count. In this case, the allegations included the following: Mr. Mitchell sold infringing copies of Autodesk and other software on Internet auction websites, including eBay, Yahoo, Up4sale, Ubid, and Lycos. In so doing, he used counterfeit labels for copies of many of the computer programs which he sold. He sold copies of software from a number of companies, including Autodesk, Maya, Soft Image, and Houdini. He had been warned via e-mail on numerous occasions by auction websites that he was not allowed to sell the software he was selling, and several of his auction accounts were shut down by the website operators at eBay and Yahoo. He also received warnings from Autodesk. Nonetheless, he continued to sell infringing software with counterfeit labels.

The sentencing of Mr. Mitchell is scheduled for November 18, 2002, at 1:30 p.m. before Judge James Ware in San Jose. The maximum statutory penalty for each count in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2318 is five years in prison and a fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss (whichever is greatest), plus restitution. However, the actual sentence will be dictated by the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of factors, and will be imposed in the discretion of the Court. This prosecution is the result of a joint investigation by the High Tech Squad of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. Autodesk, Inc., headquartered in San Rafael, California, also assisted law enforcement in the investigation. Sandra Boulton, director of piracy prevention at Autodesk, stated that Autodesk is committed to reducing software piracy, and that it supports the efforts of the FBI, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California in this matter. Ross W. Nadel, Chief of the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Computer Hacking and Intellectual Property (.CHIP.) Unit is the Assistant U.S. Attorney who oversaw the investigation and prosecuted the case with the assistance of Lauri Gomez. A copy of this press release may also be found on the U.S. Attorney’s Office website at http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/can.

All press inquiries to the U.S. Attorney’s Office should be directed to Assistant U.S. Attorney Ross W. Nadel at (408) 535-5035 or Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew J. Jacobs at (415) 436-7181.


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