- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 26, 2003

WASHINGTON, Feb. 26 (UPI) — The Justice Department Wednesday seized what it called the top Web site for software piracy, iSONEWS.com.

The seizure was part of an earlier plea agreement involving the sale of chips to circumvent copyright protections in game systems.

David M. Rocci, 22, of Blacksburg, Va., used the online screen name "krazy8." He pleaded guilty Dec. 19 in U.S. District Court to conspiring to import, market and sell circumvention devices known as modification — or "mod" — chips in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

Mod chips are designed to circumvent copyright protections built into game consoles such as the Microsoft Xbox and Sony Playstation 2.

Once installed, they allow the unlimited play of pirated games on those consoles, the Justice Department said.

As a condition of his plea, Rocci agreed to surrender to the government his public website, .iSONEWS.com.

The government then assumed control of the domain name and Website. Anyone accessing the site now will no longer find the latest news on new pirated releases by illegal software piracy (or "warez") groups.

Instead, they will view information about the case of United States v. Rocci, as well as general information about copyright infringement and the criminal prosecution of individuals engaged in online piracy, the department said.

In addition, the site now contains links to the Web site of the department's Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section, at cybercrime.gov.

The government said during a two-month period beginning in May 2002, Rocci sold approximately 450 Enigmah Mod Chips throughout the United States and overseas in return for approximately $28,000.

The Enigmah mod chips, illegally imported from the United Kingdom, were designed specifically for use in the Microsoft Xbox console.

The mod chips contained software code designed to circumvent the security or access control protections on the Xbox. Once built-in security protections were defeated by the mod chips, pirated game software could be played on the Xbox console, the department said.

In addition to mod chip sales, the iSONEWS Web site was dedicated to providing information about copyright infringement and piracy, and included pages with news on the illegal warez scene, discussion forums on piracy, and up-to-date listings of all of the latest pirated products that were available, according to the Justice Department.

The site had more than 100,000 registered users and claimed to receive more than 140,000 hits each day.

Rocci is scheduled to be sentenced March 7 before U. S. District Judge James C. Cacheris in Alexandria, Va. He could receive a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $500,000 fine.

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