26-year-old Clintwood, Virginia resident Daniel Dove was convicted of conspiracy and felony copyright infringement by a federal jury Friday, due to his role as an upload administrator at the popular BitTorrent tracker and search engine EliteTorrents.
For his crimes, Dove could face up to 10 years in prison. Sentencing is scheduled for Sept 9, 2008.
Federal authorities singled out EliteTorrents for takedown on May 25, 2005, after the site leaked a workprint of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith six hours before the movie's theatrical release.
Dove's conviction is the first jury trial and last remaining conviction in EliteTorrent's takedown, which the FBI dubbed Operation D-Elite. The raid netted two other arrests: fellow administrators Scott McCausland and Grant Stanley, with both pleading guilty and skipping the jury trial process. McCausland and Stanley received the same sentence: five months in prison followed by five months of house arrest, with Stanley facing an additional $3,000 fine.
A press release published by the Department of Justice claims that EliteTorrents attracted more than 125,000 members, who downloaded 700+ movies more than 1.1 million times.
"EliteTorrents" wide variety of content selection included illegal copies of copyrighted works before they were available in retail stores or movie theaters," it reads.
Despite the severity of Dove's punishment, Slyck writer Thomas Mennecke notes that his involvement with the site stands far beyond the average BitTorrent user.
"The overall impact of this conviction breaks little new ground," writes Mennecke, "as uploaders have always been the historical target of copyright enforcement." Other high-profile P2P cases, such as the massive $222,000 penalties levied against KaZaA user Jammie Thomas, took place in civil courts.
It should be noted that some of the legal details surrounding Thomas' judgment are currently under judicial review, and Thomas may get a second chance to try her case. The RIAA says it is prepared for that eventuality.
Generally speaking, criminal investigations in piracy usually seek the big fish: the release groups that circulate pirated movies and media, or the leakers close to the media they provide. Similar criminal proceedings are currently underway in the UK, where Interpol shut down music BitTorrent tracker OiNK and arrested administrator Alan Ellis, along with a handful of of the site's biggest uploaders.