Around the year 2010, several bands of rogues looked to launch sites distributing pirated copies of paid apps on Google Inc.’s (GOOG) Android operating system. Among these was AppBucket. By 2011 the site was picking up steam and admin posted to the group’s Facebook, Inc. (FB) fan page:
[AppBucket] wants it to be f***in perfect.. it will be as most of it is done. Just need some finess.. emails coming sometime about it… ttyl followers who support us. As we have never been down. We don’t socialize with the likes of the rest and are honestly better coders just we have lives like you enjoy ur night…oh and f**k steve jobs
In March 2012 the admins bragged on Facebook:
Gdamn guys thks. Lol. Adding thousands of apps today. Added 400 paid apps, 10 hd games updated 7 game emulators and added some other shit last night. Today ill add over 1300 paid apps.
AppBucket gave users ye old “five finger discount”.
But not long after that post, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) began to get serious about Android piracy. Appbucket and others tried to shuffle their servers to Europe, but the DOJ worked with French and Dutch authorities. By August it had seized applanet.net, appbucket.net, and snappzmarket.com. The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) posted its typical piracy seizure notice on the sites.
Also in Aug. 2012, the FBI executed nine search warrants across six different districts, seizing evidence from the sites’ admins. The last year and a half the FBI has been questioning some of these sites’ administrators/owners and analyzing their hard drive.
This week, two of the pirates — Nicholas Anthony Narbone, 26, of Orlando, Flor. (who allegedly was the leader of AppBucket) and Thomas Allen Dye, 21, of Jacksonville, Flor. — pled guilty in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.
Nicholas Narbone, the alleged leader of the app pirates
[Image Source: Facebook; Fair Use clause TITLE 17 > CHAPTER 1 > § 107]
Authorities appeared to have an airtight case; having successfully completed thousands of downloads of pirate apps served directly from AppBucket. Reportedly AppBucket alone accounted for more than a million app downloads with over 5,000 different apps at its peak. In total these downloads represent roughly $700,000 USD in lost business to Google and developers, according to the FBI.
Two other men — Kody Jon Peterson, 22, of Clermont, Fla. and Thomas Pace, 38, of Oregon City, Ore. of the SnappzMarket group — are currently awaiting their day in court, having been also charged in Jan. 2014 alongside the AppBucket defendants.
U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates stated in a press release:
Copyright infringement discourages smart, innovative people from using their talents to create things that the rest of society can use and enjoy. Theft is theft – whether the property taken is intellectual or tangible – and we will continue to prosecute those who steal copyrighted material.
AppBucket reportedly served 1 million pirated app downloads.
Acting Assistant Attorney General David A. O’Neil of the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division, adds:
These mark the first convictions secured by the Justice Department against those who illegally distribute counterfeit mobile apps. These men trampled on the intellectual property rights of others when they and other members of the Appbucket group distributed more than one million copies of pirated apps. The Criminal Division has made fighting intellectual property crime a top priority, and these convictions demonstrate our determination to prosecute those who undermine the innovations of others in new technologies.
As this is Mr. Narbone and Mr. Dye’s first time journeying into prison, they are eligible for a maximum sentence of 5 years and a maximum fine of $250,000 USD under 17 U.S.C. § 506 and 18 U.S. Code § 2319.
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