On May 2, 2011, Richard Franco Montejano, 29, of Harbor City, California, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge George H. King in Los Angeles to one count of conspiracy to commit willful copyright infringement by the distribution of a work being prepared for commercial distribution. Montejano faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine and is scheduled to be sentenced on July 25, 2011.
Kickin' It Old School
Montejano admitted that from 2002 to September 2007, he was a member and leader of an Internet music release group known as "Old School Classics" or "OSC." OSC was a "warez" group that specialized in the unauthorized reproduction and distribution of copyrighted music using the Internet.
SIDE BAR: Warez (like house-wares but is also pronounced like the Mexican city of Juarez) should not be confused with shareware or freeware - the latter two examples are software that may be legally copied for free and subsequently distributed. In contrast, warez is an illegal product that has been pirated and distributed via disabled copy-protection or registration protocol. Warez is typically available through online download and contemplates a more organized effort than the mere file sharing among a few individuals. There is a robust Warez Scene that comprises numerous groups, websites and links that are widely and notoriously publicized.
For an example of how widespread this criminal phenomenon is, consider the results for a simple "warez" search via Google. WARNING: Before clicking on any of the Google results, be aware that many listed sites contain pornography and you may be subjected to malware attacks or other unwanted intrusions.
No Laughing Matter
In the Seinfeld episode "The Little Kicks" (broadcast October 10, 1996), Jerry invites Kramer to an advance screening of a movie, and, as only Kramer could do, he convinces Jerry to get an extra ticket for his friend Brody - who illegally videotapes the film in order to sell bootleg copies. Unfortunately, Brody gets sick during the taping and Jerry somehow winds up finishing the film (after Brody threatens him with a gun). Things quickly unravel when Brody tells Jerry that his finished product was a tour-de-force and tries to enroll him as a videographer. The formerly fearful Jerry turns into an overly demanding artiste, and when his insistence upon better working conditions and equipment prove too much, Brody tells him to take a hike.
In contrast to the clumsy efforts of Brody and Jerry and their third-rate product, Montejano and OSC were not tape recording CDs or downloading fuzzy tracks from YouTube. Warez groups such as OSC often obtain copyrighted works directly from industry insiders before the work's commercial release, and then prepare those stolen copies for distribution through affiliated computer servers. Moreover, the warez scene is not so much a distant or even loose affiliation of groups but more of a family that shares pirated works with each other. What one steals, is provided to others; what others steal, is provided back in return. All for one and one for all.
Montejano maintained a computer server at his Harbor City residence to which other OSC members uploaded pirated music. Notably, a member of OSC uploaded the Kanye West album "Graduation," to Montejano's server in August 2007, more than one week before the album was commercially released.
In January 2007 the warez group "Rabid Neurosis" or "RNS," apparently broke up, thus paving the way for OSC to obtain valuable pre-release music from former RNS members "adeg" and "StJames." (Bennie Glover and James Anthony Dockery, respectively). Rather than a couple of slacker kids simply posting stolen videos or tracks, Glover and Dockery were employees of a North Carolina factory that manufactured compact discs for Universal Music Group and its subsidiary labels. On Oct. 15, 2009, both men pled guilty to conspiracy to commit willful copyright infringement, and were sentenced on Jan. 15, 2010, in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va., to three months in prison and two years of supervised release.