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Piracy Crime Games Your Rights Online

Seller of Counterfeit Video Games Gets 30 Months 165

Posted by Soulskill
from the more-than-he-could-chew dept.
wiredmikey writes "The FBI reported this week that Qiang 'Michael' Bi, of Powell, Ohio was sentenced to 30 months in prison for selling more than 35,000 illegally copied computer games over the Internet between 2005 and 2009. According to a statement of facts read during Bi's plea hearing, agents executed a search warrant at Bi's house and found multiple CD duplicators and more than 1,000 printed counterfeit CDs. Some of the CDs were still in the duplicator. During their investigation, agents learned that Bi would buy a single copy of a game, illegally duplicate it and sell the copies on eBay.com and Amazon.com. He also set up a website for customers to download the games they bought. Bi accepted payment through eBay and PayPal accounts in his name and in others' names."
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Seller of Counterfeit Video Games Gets 30 Months

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  • What was he possibly selling in 2005 that had no reg code or drm???
  • Amazing... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nametaken (610866) * on Friday December 31, 2010 @04:29AM (#34720044)

    It still blows my mind that people can be capable enough to run a little outfit like this, and yet be so amazingly dumb. You know you're going to get caught when you sell this stuff from the US, under your own name, on big name websites.

    • But how much money did he make and move offshore? Maybe 30 months is trivial for him. Maybe 30 months is unusually large and it's normally fair to bet on a much lighter sentence.

      • Dunno. However there's this:

        Bi also forfeited $367,669 in cash, representing the proceeds of the crimes, as well as his house, a 2006 Lexus SUV and computer and electronic equipment.

        • And also this:

          He will also be required to make restitution to the companies who created the games. The amount of restitution is yet to be determined.

        • by sjames (1099)

          Somehow less than the penalty for "making available" 24 songs. The moral of the story: If you're going to commit a crime, commit the biggest crime you possibly can!

          • by Opportunist (166417) on Friday December 31, 2010 @06:00AM (#34720370)

            I'd like to, but I lack the money to open a bank.

            • by sjames (1099)

              That's the real trick, if you can get away with it long enough to grow your crimes, eventually you can commit crimes big enough that the government starts paying you.

              • On another note, cancel the bank, I'll make a religion. Much easier to start and all you need is some gullible idiots. Even given the competition in the market for gullible fools, there's certainly still a vast unharvested field.

          • The amount of restitution is yet to be determined and could include:
            1. Infringer pays the actual dollar amount of damages and profits
            2. The law provides a range from $200 to $150,000 for each work infringed
            3. Infringer pays for all attorneys fees and court costs

            So the sum total may exceed the penalty for "making available" 24 songs. We will just have to wait to find out.

          • Somehow less than the penalty for "making available" 24 songs. The moral of the story: If you're going to commit a crime, commit the biggest crime you possibly can!

            The problem is that the law ask for the number of copyrighted items that were copied, not for the value of those items, and not for the number of copies made. Psystar who was convicted for making about 750 illegal copies of MacOS X was convicted for copying _one_ copyrighted work, 1/24th of Jammi whatshername. The number of copies is only relevant if the copyright owner goes for actual damages. Let's say if a record company sold a million copies of a CD without having the copyright. So to compare the cases,

          • I thought the moral was thusly: Steal as much as you can. That way you can afford a better lawyer (and accountants to hide money offshore for when you get out of Club Fed in six months).

        • by nospam007 (722110)

          $367,669 in cash and too cheap to rent a server in Tonga or Tuvalu to run his business from?

  • Misplaced focus (Score:5, Insightful)

    by macraig (621737) <(mark.a.craig) (at) (gmail.com)> on Friday December 31, 2010 @04:49AM (#34720112)

    So this guy gets 30 months for physically duplicating AND SELLING stuff, while Jammie Thomas et al get smacked with million-dollar fines for downloading a few handfuls of unpaid tunes for their own personal enjoyment? Maybe THIS guy should be the one getting smacked with million-dollar fines, considering he might have made millions from what he was doing.

    • Re:Misplaced focus (Score:5, Informative)

      by PatPending (953482) on Friday December 31, 2010 @05:05AM (#34720158)
      Not just 30 months; there's also this:

      Bi also forfeited $367,669 in cash, representing the proceeds of the crimes, as well as his house, a 2006 Lexus SUV and computer and electronic equipment.

      • And there is also this:

        He will also be required to make restitution to the companies who created the games. The amount of restitution is yet to be determined.

        Assuming it's the retail price, 35,000 games @ $20 amounts to $700,000

        • by metacell (523607)

          Good point, but it's still grossly out of proportion, considering 35'000 games cost a lot more than 24 songs.

          • by macraig (621737)

            grossly out of proportion == misplaced focus, then?

          • by Pharmboy (216950)

            Good point, but it's still grossly out of proportion, considering 35'000 games cost a lot more than 24 songs.

            Yea, but remember, when someone pirates something that doesn't mean they would have bought it had it not been available to download....oh wait, I just proved your point even more....

            People who are SELLING counterfeit copies of games should be fined as it IS theft. The buyers actually traded dollars for the games (albeit at lower prices). Why the justice system wants to punish little old ladies for

            • by metacell (523607)

              I suspect they're reasoning that the chance of getting caught is so low, they need to make the punishment draconic instead to get people to follow the law.

              I.e, the punishment is not in proportion to the individual's guilt, but in proportion to society's need to quell file sharing (as perceived by the lobbyists and politicians).

              Even if didn't think file sharing was harmless, I would find that reasoning dubious from a justice point of view.

        • Assuming the average few millions per copied song, I hope he has a country like, say, Australia willing to donate their GDP for a few years so he can pay the fine.

    • So this guy gets 30 months for physically duplicating AND SELLING stuff, while Jammie Thomas et al get smacked with million-dollar fines for downloading a few handfuls of unpaid tunes for their own personal enjoyment? Maybe THIS guy should be the one getting smacked with million-dollar fines, considering he might have made millions from what he was doing.

      Thomas has had multiple opportunities to settle for much less, some as low as around a couple thousand dollars (which would have been a pretty fair amount, considering that had in fact downloaded and was sharing a couple thousand songs, not a mere "few handfuls"). She had such opportunities before the first trial, and after each trial.

      Thomas also lied under oath, tried to frame her children, and was caught trying to destroy evidence. Those things make the jury unsympathetic, and such damages are determined

  • by PatPending (953482) on Friday December 31, 2010 @04:56AM (#34720132)
    According to the story in TFS,

    Agents and officers with the FBI Cybercrime Task Force, and U.S. Postal Inspectors are credited with the success of the case.

    Er, no--credit monitoring software at the company he worked for! [dispatch.com]:

    New monitoring software at Nationwide Insurance spelled the beginning of the end for an employee who had been counterfeiting and selling computer games for five years. The software alerted Nationwide officials to a spreadsheet that Qiang "Michael" Bi had sent from his personal e-mail account to his Nationwide e-mail account. The spreadsheet listed eBay accounts, credit-card numbers and false identity information that Bi used in a lucrative counterfeiting scheme.

    The spreadsheet listed more than 50 eBay and PayPal accounts, all with different names. Bi told investigators he used other people's information on the accounts because eBay and PayPal had suspended his accounts and do not allow a new account with the same name and address as a suspended account.

  • From TFA: He was sentenced to six months each for the mail fraud and copyright infringement crimes and an additional 24 months for the aggravated identity theft.

    No trademark infringement? I doubt he was passing these off as the real thing, i.e., counterfeiting.
    • by icebike (68054)

      Wouldn't trademark infringement be a civil matter?

    • by Tuoqui (1091447)

      It's just a false flag issue to get people on side with ACTA. Now everytime you see a big bust they wont use the word piracy, they'll use counterfeiting. Yeah we caught this guy counterfeiting 1000's of songs on the internets clogging up the tubes.

      I wouldn't be surprised if this guy was a plant by the MAFIAA or something.

  • I can live another day knowing that less potential profit is being stolen (which is totally possible even though it doesn't even exist in the hands of the copyright holder anyway). It's really nice to see that petty things that should be up to the copyright holder to attempt to stop are being handled by the police (who don't have anything better to do).

  • by Odinlake (1057938) on Friday December 31, 2010 @06:39AM (#34720484)
    Setting aside the possible sleaziness of this particular guy; seen from another perspective it's pretty fantastic how much resources and time we waste on seeking out and punishing people for reorganizing a tiny bunch of molecules on worthless pieces of plastic.
    • I don't see how it's a waste of time to prevent the theft of potential profit (it's theft even though the copyright holder never had the money in their possession anyway). I just hope they ban competition, the act of a consumer to choose not to buy something, and negative user reviews soon. That way, potential future gain could no longer be stolen!

      • by Odinlake (1057938)

        (it's theft even though the copyright holder never had the money in their possession anyway)

        you assert this boldly, but it's really an ongoing debate. I didn't want to start this argument though, so let me apologize for using the word "waste" and say that I would rather have written "extend". My meaning was to say that when I take a few steps back and look at it all, it seems kind of weird. With most other crimes there are quite straightforward justifications for what we have the justice system occupied with doing, but with copyright it becomes a bit of an ant hive. Just a feeling, I'm not saying

        • but it's really an ongoing debate

          Well, I suppose it is a little bit difficult to steal something that doesn't even exist...

      • by Kaz Kylheku (1484)

        (it's theft even though the copyright holder never had the money in their possession anyway).

        When a thief takes goods from a store, the store also never has the thief's money in its possession.

        • When a thief takes a good from the store, the good is no longer there. I could understand people who don't understand what the act of copyright infringement actually involves not knowing the difference, but someone browsing this website (multiple people, no less)? Come on. It's simply not the same thing. The thief is accused of taking the good, not money that never existed in the first place.

  • by Satanboy (253169) on Friday December 31, 2010 @09:31AM (#34721062)

    He made over $700,000 on these counterfeited games.

    He actually turned in over $360,000 IN CASH after being caught.

    He was not a petty guy just making some copies for his friends etc.
    So yeah, seriously, don't try and compare this guy to any fair use idea whatsoever, it's just going to hurt the whole fair use argument if you use him as an example.

    It's guys like this that make it hard for the rest of us who just want to backup a game or install on another PC.

    • by g0bshiTe (596213)
      This also should go a long way for those caught by the MPAA or the RIAA, surely selling something for profit that is copy righted is worse than giving it away for free right? Seriously you are talking about someone that made nearly $1 million from pirated copies and all he got was 30 months, probably half of which will be suspended.

      Yet someone caught trading songs has their life utterly destroyed to the tune of $30k per song shared.

      Seems a bit lopsided to me.
      • surely selling something for profit that is copy righted is worse than giving it away for free right

        Well it depends. The argument often used on /. to justify piracy is that it's just natural for information to be copied etc, and it's a basic human right to do so, and authors should seek other revenue models and so on. In which case it really shouldn't be any different regardless of whether he made money on it or not. So long as he didn't claim to be the author of the works he copied, and didn't defraud his customers by claiming that the copies are legal, the "information wants to be free" argument should

  • I'm a bit puzzled at the Editor's choice of a word - I'm sure that if I bought and played the game, it would work in the same way as the 'real' one - and the game was ~copied~, not 'created to resemble' as the word counterfeit implies. Yet I do understand that many are tiring of the word 'pirate'...

  • If the program isn't modified in any way, it's not counterfeit. The problem that someone wasn't compensated for the copy isn't counterfeting.

    A counterfeit coin or paper bill actually has no value (unless the copy is so perfect, that nobody can tell!)

    A pirated program has value, because it runs.

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