Thursday, February 26, 2004

Operation Buccaneer fallout continues

Thursday, February 26, 2004

On 26th March, Sean Michael Breen, leader of prolific piracy group Razor 1911, will begin serving a 50 month prison sentence following his conviction for the crime of copyright infringement. It is thought that during his reign as the head honcho of the oldest internet piracy group, Breen was responsible for cracking and distributing half a million dollars worth of software. He is the last in a long line of prominent 'scene' members to suffer the backlash of Operation Buccaneer, the mother of all anti-piracy initiatives coordinated by US Customs and the Department of Justice.

Formed in October 1985 by three Norwegians, Razor 1911 initially focused their attention on releasing demos and cracking games for the *cough* Speccy was better *cough* Commodore 64.

As technology evolved, so did they; in 1988 the group adopted the legendary Amiga platform and the demos and cracked games continued to gush into the computing underworld in epic proportions.

Another technology shift in the early 90s sparked the group's transition to the PC scene where they specialised in the release of game rips, and later full CD images. Until recently they could be considered a runaway bootleg software-releasing juggernaut.

Of all those prosecuted as a consequence of the 14 month sting, Breen received the longest sentence, largely due to his involvement in a separate scam pertaining to the fraudulent acquisition of hardware. By impersonating the owner of a legitimate trading account, Breen was able to order over $690,000 worth of goods from Cisco Systems and have them delivered to the premises of a fictitious company. He may now regret flogging this computer kit on the grey market at knock-down prices bearing in mind that part of his recompense will entail reimbursing Cisco Systems for the full amount on his release from prison!

Breen was rumbled for his foremost transgression, the illegal distribution of retail software, on discovery that he had been posing as a reviewer for a non-existent online games magazine so as to procure pre-release titles.

A recent Game Spot article covering the outcome of Breen's trial asserts that he was convicted for illegally selling and distributing software, while other online news sites make no mention of money changing hands, at least where the software was concerned. This appears to be more of an assumption made on Game Spot's part than an undisputable fact, one likely to have arisen from the difficulty many people in the gaming industry have with believing that anyone would jeopardize their personal freedom to distribute software without garnering material gain.

Razor 1911 have always, at least in their release (aka nfo) 'broadcasts', urged end users to support software authors by buying their products. Nevertheless, whether or not they adhered to their own advice remains a hotly debated topic. Despite publicly condemning "those who would profit from the scene", namely ISO News in particular, Razor 1911 are known to have, in their early days, gladly accepted payment for access to their BBS sites and DAT tapes as well as selling group merchandise including t-shirts, so who knows what the truth is? It would seem odd to many that anyone would insist on upholding the scene 'code of conduct' while at the same time ripping off Cisco Systems for the tidy sum of $690,000. The plot thickens...

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