The Justice Department put out a press release late last night touting the conspiracy conviction of 25-year-old Barry Gitarts of Brooklyn, a member of an online music and software bootlegging group known as aPC (aka the aPOCALYPSE pRODUCTION cREW or the Apocalypse Crew). The jury verdict was notable to the RIAA because it was the first federal criminal trial of a defendant accused primarily of online music piracy. That's not what got my attention, however.
Gitarts was actually the 15th member of the group to be convicted. The other 14 pleaded guilty to crimes related to the activities of the aPC, which once was one of the release groups that sat atop the online piracy pyramid. More interesting, all but one of these defendants were identified and charged months after the former leader of the aPC, then 21-year-old Mark Shumaker, pleaded guilty to federal charges of criminal copyright infringement stemming from a series of raids in December 2001.
Although some online commenters say Shumaker wasn't part of aPC at the time of the raid, the feds focused on his activities in that group when they announced his conviction. In other words, anyone with a clue at aPC should have found something else to do with his or her free time. Instead, the group remained active until the following April, when FBI agents swept in and seized servers, logs and other incriminating evidence of the group's activities. The fact that more than a dozen aPC members have joined Shumaker among the ranks of felons is a sign of the insularity of the warez scene and its participants' sense of invulnerability, founded in part on their anonymity (scene members often know nothing about one another except the names they use online). Most members of the scene don't get caught, it's true, just as most file-sharers don't wind up on the receiving end of an RIAA lawsuit. Still, given the heads-up provided by Shumaker's arrest and conviction, you'd think the aPC would at least have changed its name.
The APC logo above was created by an artist who goes by the initials rnz.