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Crime The Courts United States

MegaUpload Programmer Pleads Guilty, Gets a Year In Prison 188

An anonymous reader writes When MegaUpload was shut down a few years back, seven of the company's employees were indicted by the U.S. We heard a lot about Kim Dotcom's court proceedings, but not much about the others. A few days ago, we received word that programmer Andrus Nomm has been arrested in Virginia. This came as a surprise to everyone involved. MegaUpload attorney Ira Rothken said it was likely Nomm had made a deal with the Feds. Now, we know for sure: Nomm has pleaded guilty to felony copyright infringement and was sentenced to a year and a day in prison. In a statement, the Department of Justice said they will continue to pursue his co-conspirators.
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MegaUpload Programmer Pleads Guilty, Gets a Year In Prison

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  • by hcs_$reboot ( 1536101 ) on Friday February 13, 2015 @04:24PM (#49050137)
    Isn't a programmer an employee doing what he is requested to do - and anyway making programmes does not infringe copyright laws. It seems everyone has to pay a price in this megaupload story, in order to send a strong and threatening message.
    • by al0ha ( 1262684 ) on Friday February 13, 2015 @04:31PM (#49050209) Journal
      Interesting tact but that same kind of argument did not work for Dread Pirate Roberts either, once involved in a criminal conspiracy, which I am sure the Feds deem MegaUpload is, you are liable for all use of that which you created, even a program you coded if it was used for illicit purposes.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 13, 2015 @04:42PM (#49050305)

        Better go arrest anyone who developed a web browser, BitTorrent client, email client/service then. All of those have been used to violate copyright.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        So lets say, I work on an assembly line that builds a car, later used in an armed robbery. Does this mean my coworkers and I are accomplices in the robbery? No, we employees working on tasks assigned. Building a car does not make me an accomplice later in how the car was used.

        Why should programmers be any different?

        • by wed128 ( 722152 ) <woodrowdouglass@@@gmail...com> on Friday February 13, 2015 @05:01PM (#49050489)

          Why should programmers be any different?

          because computers.

        • by jlv ( 5619 )

          An assembly line worker is no more an accomplice then the maker of the computer Andrus used.

          On the other hand, I suspect if you were a worker hired to take a car and specifically enhance it to be part of the armed robbery (e.g,. make it a better getaway car), then they could try you as an accomplice.

      • by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Friday February 13, 2015 @04:47PM (#49050361) Homepage

        Funny, but given the massive scale of the criminal conspiracy which was perpetuated by the financial industry with re-packaging shitty debt ... I think it's mostly just a demonstration that "the law", and the consequences for breaking it, and entirely dependent on how much you have paid your congressman.

        Wall street ripped off the world for trillions of dollars, and not a single person was charged. And yet they're all "too big to fail" and we couldn't possibly charge them with crimes. And certainly the rank and file were clearly just following company policy.

        Executives oversee illegal activity all the time, but somehow the fact that they're executives means the "corporate veil" protects them.

        I think it's a complete crock that employees of corporations can be charged depending on, literally, how much slush money one set of corporations has given government.

        Essentially the *AAs have bought themselves a different set of laws, and the US government are more or less their enforcement arm.

        It's hard not to see these kinds of prosecutions as more or less political show trials. Because, they essentially are.

        It's not based on the principle of law, it's based on the political desire to make an example of someone. And that someone ran afoul of major campaign donors who have bought off the government.

        • by bug1 ( 96678 )

          Funny, but given the the massive scale of the criminal conspiracy which was perpetuated by the financial industry with re-packaging shitty debt

          I wonder if any of those people use any microsoft programs to commit their crimes... perhaps we can get all the microsoft emplyees put in jail.

          (but seriosuly, this is such a slippery slope i wouldnt even want that)

      • by dissy ( 172727 )

        once involved in a criminal conspiracy, which I am sure the Feds deem MegaUpload is, you are liable for all use of that which you created, even a program you coded if it was used for illicit purposes.

        09 F9 11 02 9D 74 E3 5B D8 41 56 C5 63 56 88 C0

        There, you just participated in a web forum used for illicit purposes, and so are also guilty of criminal copyright infringement and criminal conspiracy.

        Hope to see you in cell block six for the traditional fuck-beta gathering!

    • Saying you were only following orders is never a defense for committing a crime.

    • by Dutch Gun ( 899105 ) on Friday February 13, 2015 @04:48PM (#49050365)

      Nomm is also accused of watching at least one copy of a pirated TV-show.

      “On or about December 5, 2008, NOMM sent VAN DER KOLK an e-mail, which included a screenshot of NOMM’s account using Megavideo.com to watch an infringing episode of the copyrighted television show Chuck,” the indictment reads.

      This sounds like going after Al Capone for tax evasion. Actually, more like going after one of his henchmen for tax evasion. It's likely they only are after Dotcom, and are using this guy as leverage to get to him. I mean, seriously? Watching one pirated TV show? At this point, they're just throwing whatever they think can stick at him.

      • by Rich0 ( 548339 )

        This sounds like going after Al Capone for tax evasion. Actually, more like going after one of his henchmen for tax evasion

        Well, more like going after the secretary that works for his tax accountant.

      • More like going after Al Capone's tea lady for putting a nip of whisky in her night cap.

    • There's a difference between working for a company that does something wrong without your knowledge and working for a company that is knowingly doing something that is "perceived" as illegal. I use perceived because there's still a fine line between enabling distribution and distribution of copyright material in some countries.

    • Isn't a programmer an employee doing what he is requested to do - and anyway making programmes does not infringe copyright laws. It seems everyone has to pay a price in this megaupload story, in order to send a strong and threatening message.

      "I only followed orders" hasn't worked as an excuse for quite a while. If you write software, you know what it is supposed to do. And if it is used to help with copyright infringement, and you knew it, or you would have known it if you hadn't closed your eyes to it as hard as you could, you are guilty.

      • by Shagg ( 99693 )

        So is the programmer that writes an ftp server guilty if that server happens to be used for copyright infringement?

      • Like many coders, I too have written code to upload files, but I'm damned if I know what files were uploaded or what their copyright status is.

        Je Suis Kim Dotcom.

      • by ld a,b ( 1207022 )

        If you write software, you know what it is supposed to do.

        I gather you have never worked as a software engineer, then?

        At best we can infer what it's supposed to do based on a tissue paper scribbled by someone who has no technical expertise and was told about the project five minutes beforehand. Using lipstick or crayons as available.

        Usually we get an artist's rendition of the above, faxed, and then re-scanned and embedded into a pdf file.

    • Isn't a programmer an employee doing what he is requested to do - and anyway making programmes does not infringe copyright laws.

      Not directly, but it does facilitate infringement which is what is needed in a conspiracy charge. It's similar to working as receptionist for a hit man or something like that. If your job activities facilitate crime, you can be charged.

    • by murdocj ( 543661 )

      You mean sort of like how a chemist in a meth lab is just an employee?

      • No. In Breaking Bad, since you watch too much TV dramas, that would be the guys of the Vamonos fumigation company. They do some work, which is then indirectly used by a meth lab.
  • Co-Conspirators? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NickFortune ( 613926 ) on Friday February 13, 2015 @04:28PM (#49050175) Homepage Journal

    So, someone hires you to work on a file sharing network. And this is conspiracy? I mean there was a time when "file sharing" was a legitimate thing to do and didn't automatically imply copyright infringement.

    Even if it did, I doubt Kim Dotcom said "hey, how'd you like to join a conspiracy to enable copyright infringement?" I think it was more likely "I want to hire a database programmer"

    I know it's kind of hip to say "well what do you expect?", but really this seems punitive vindictive and disproportionate.

    I mean if this can happen when you write code in good faith for someone who used it for purposes later deemed illegal ... that kind of puts us all in the frame. I mean, corporate ethics being what they are and all that.

    Damn.

    • Re:Co-Conspirators? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Friday February 13, 2015 @04:55PM (#49050431) Journal
      From my understanding, the government will have to show that:
      A) That the purpose (or at least one purpose of the site) was to aid copyright infringement (or other illegal thing)
      B) That this guy knew about the purpose, even if he tried to pretend he didn't.

      I'm guessing that they won't have any problem convincing a jury of (A), and he emailed someone a screenshot of his computer watching a pirated video on MEGAVIDEO.COM, so I don't think they'll have much trouble with part (B), either.
      • by Rich0 ( 548339 )

        From my understanding, the government will have to show that:

        A) That the purpose (or at least one purpose of the site) was to aid copyright infringement (or other illegal thing)

        B) That this guy knew about the purpose, even if he tried to pretend he didn't.

        I'm guessing that they won't have any problem convincing a jury of (A), and he emailed someone a screenshot of his computer watching a pirated video on MEGAVIDEO.COM, so I don't think they'll have much trouble with part (B), either.

        So, uh, guess I shouldn't get a drop working for Dropbox or Google, right? You do realize they let people share arbitrary files for download by anybody on the internet.

        • So, uh, guess I shouldn't get a drop working for Dropbox or Google, right? You do realize they let people share arbitrary files for download by anybody on the internet.

          Yes, but he wasn't arguing that letting people share arbitrary files for download was a problem.

          What he said was:

          A) That the purpose (or at least one purpose of the site) was to aid copyright infringement (or other illegal thing)

          So you'd have to argue that at least one purpose of Dropbox and/or Google Drive is to aid copyright infringement.

          No

          • by Rich0 ( 548339 )

            I don't think anybody has established that one of the purposes of DropBox is piracy. It's one of its uses - in that some people use it for that - but not a purpose.

            I see. So, I'm OK working for Dropbox if my reading of the company founder's minds is the same as a court's? Or maybe it comes down to whether Dropbox has better lawyers?

            • I didn't realize that the court and/or the programmer read the minds of the people behind MegaUpload. That's utterly fascinating - please, do tell me more about this aspect of the legal process.

              Nomm further admitted that, through his work as a computer programmer, he was aware that copyright-infringing content was stored on the websites, including copyright protected motion pictures and television programs, some of which contained the âoeFBI Anti-Piracyâ warning. [...] Despite his knowledge in th

              • by Rich0 ( 548339 )

                I didn't realize that the court and/or the programmer read the minds of the people behind MegaUpload. That's utterly fascinating - please, do tell me more about this aspect of the legal process.

                Nomm further admitted that, through his work as a computer programmer, he was aware that copyright-infringing content was stored on the websites, including copyright protected motion pictures and television programs, some of which contained the âoeFBI Anti-Piracyâ warning. [...] Despite his knowledge in this regard, Nomm continued to participate in the Mega Conspiracy.

                Got it, so I'm safe working for Dropbox as long as they don't store any copyright protected motion pictures on their system - ie I'm not safe working for them.

                Seems like Dropbox is even taking a proactive stance to prevent the very thing that MegaUpload proactively facilitated.

                Proactive facilitation of copyright infringement? Does that mean that when you sign up for an account with them they go ahead and load copyrighted material on it before you even get a chance to do it yourself? Or does it just mean that they comply with the DMCA and take stuff down when they're asked to?

                • Got it, so I'm safe working for Dropbox as long as they don't store any copyright protected motion pictures on their system - ie I'm not safe working for them.

                  If you become rather aware of it (like that guy) and that they're not doing anything much about it (like megaupload) and you then continue to work for them (like that guy) - you're right, you wouldn't be safe working for them. Up until that point, though, I'm not sure what they'd have on you.

                  Proactive facilitation of copyright infringement? Does that

                  • by Rich0 ( 548339 )

                    As far as I know, both (MegaUpload and Dropbox) comply with DMCA requests. One was just a little more 'meh' about it than the other.

                    Thank you officer, may I have another?

      • After reading the other article, it seems he plead guilty to criminal copyright infringement. Here is the law itself [copyright.gov].

        Having a legitimate use is not a justification by itself. Remember Limewire lost their court case because they were implying on its website that it could have illegal uses. Don't do that.
        • by Shagg ( 99693 ) on Friday February 13, 2015 @05:52PM (#49050971)

          Whether your intended use is legitimate or illegitimate has nothing to do with it. If you piss off the copyright cartel, you're guilty. Whether or not you actually broke the law doesn't matter.

          • Sounds like a coherent understanding of reality.
            • by dbIII ( 701233 )
              Personally I think it's insane that a civil crime such as a breach of copyright terms is treated as a criminal matter more serious than assaulting someone and leaving them with injuries that will be with them for the rest of their life.
              • Personally I think it's insane that a civil crime such as a breach of copyright terms is treated as a criminal matter more serious than assaulting someone and leaving them with injuries that will be with them for the rest of their life.

                Here in the US we have the best legal system that money can buy.

      • From my understanding, the government will have to show that: A) That the purpose (or at least one purpose of the site) was to aid copyright infringement (or other illegal thing) B) That this guy knew about the purpose, even if he tried to pretend he didn't. I'm guessing that they won't have any problem convincing a jury of (A), and he emailed someone a screenshot of his computer watching a pirated video on MEGAVIDEO.COM, so I don't think they'll have much trouble with part (B), either.

        I don't think they have to prove actual knowledge if your activities facilitated the crime. I think they need only prove a lesser "subjective test": that is "would a reasonable person have known that their work was facilitating crime?". This kind of reasonable person test is commonly used so that people can't use a "blind eye" defense. Willfully turning a blind eye to criminal activity doesn't absolve you if you were actively participating.

        • I think they need only prove a lesser "subjective test": that is "would a reasonable person have known that their work was facilitating crime?".

          Yeah, I think you're right. I tried to convey that idea, but you said it better than I did.

    • There's a fine line here and if you are willing to knowingly risk walking it all bets are off when hammer time happens.

    • Re:Co-Conspirators? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Friday February 13, 2015 @05:09PM (#49050577)

      Even if it did, I doubt Kim Dotcom said "hey, how'd you like to join a conspiracy to enable copyright infringement?"

      It's pretty clear from the internal emails released that that's basically what went on. Everyone there knew the service was being used for massive copyright infringement, and on some levels they actually encouraged it.

      The reason Kim Dotcom got off (or should get off) has to do with legal procedure and extradition treaties. Basically in their zeal to reel him in, the U.S. DoJ ignored its prior agreements with New Zealand, and pressured NZ police into taking actions which violated their own laws. That's why he's getting off, not because he didn't infringe copyright. Most people here hardly consider him a champion of their pet causes. They just happen to side with him in this case because they're opposed to Hollywood leveraging its political influence to commit illegal acts under the color of law enforcement.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 13, 2015 @04:29PM (#49050187)

    Sure, blame the messenger instead of the sender. They may have create the service, but they aren't the ones who placed that copyrighted content there. They were even doing a relatively good job of removing copyrighted material.
    By the logic of the US, all of Google employees should go to jail, considering how many copyrighted content there is on Youtube.
    This is why nobody likes the US.

    • Megaupload didn't have a reputation of being extremely compliant in that department. I would compare them to Youtube or Google's employees.

  • by DoofusOfDeath ( 636671 ) on Friday February 13, 2015 @04:50PM (#49050383)

    Isn't copyright infringement a civil offense?

    Democracy my ass.

    • by Theaetetus ( 590071 ) <theaetetus.slashdotNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Friday February 13, 2015 @05:13PM (#49050621) Homepage Journal

      Isn't copyright infringement a civil offense?

      It's both. 17 USC 506 [cornell.edu] defines criminal copyright infringement:

      (a) Criminal Infringement.—
      (1) In general.— Any person who willfully infringes a copyright shall be punished as provided under section 2319 of title 18, if the infringement was committed—
      (A) for purposes of commercial advantage or private financial gain;
      (B) by the reproduction or distribution, including by electronic means, during any 180–day period, of 1 or more copies or phonorecords of 1 or more copyrighted works, which have a total retail value of more than $1,000; or
      (C) by the distribution of a work being prepared for commercial distribution, by making it available on a computer network accessible to members of the public, if such person knew or should have known that the work was intended for commercial distribution.

      The usual differentiation between criminal and civil infringement is 1A, for the purpose of commercial advantage of private financial gain. I think in this case, it had to do with the fact that MegaUpload made significant amounts of money through advertising associated with the pages on which they were sharing works under copyright.

  • Is everyone who ever wrote a file transfer program guilty of copyright infringement? Is everyone who ever wrote a protocol that makes a directory downloadable guilty? Arrest everyone who worked on Apache! And FTP. And Gopher. And telnet. And Kermit.

    Say I move a file into a copyrighted public place using Windows. By this prosecution, the programmers at Microsoft should be arrested!

    I don't get it. Is there no logic to prosecutions? No principle?

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