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Survey finds long sentences handed down for cybercrime in 2013

It’s a fair reminder: as a writer for the E-Commerce Times’ Technology Law Corner reported recently, hefty sentences are being ordered for those convicted of Internet offenses, although the public may not realize that fact. As the writer said, the press is very active whenever a deft hacker is caught, an online drug sales operation is revealed, or a massive data breach is reported. Some reporters will follow these stories to trial, but few go as far as to cover the sentencing hearing.

The tech law reporter wanted to know how seriously prosecutors and judges are taking cybercrime. A survey of Internet-related convictions in 2013 showed many defendants not faring well at sentencing. In fact, copyright infringement, which in the past was most often handled through civil lawsuits, is also a criminal offense -- and it is being prosecuted at a substantially increased rate.

Some time ago, for example, the Motion Picture Association of America tried to fight movie pirating by filing civil copyright infringement lawsuits against people who participated in file-sharing networks. The effort was ineffective, as well as quite unpopular for the MPAA. More recently, a 40-year-old man was charged with criminal copyright infringement for allegedly selling pirated movies. Even after pleading guilty he was sentenced to five years in prison and three years of supervised release -- thanks to evidence provided by the MPAA.

Other examples of tough cybercrime sentences in 2013 included a Romanian hacker sentenced to 15 years for breaking into retailers’ point-of-sale systems, and 10 years for the notorious 2011 Strategic Forecasting Inc.

If you’re accused of a cybercrime, you’re facing extremely serious potential sentences in federal prison. You’re not the only one who needs to understand exactly what you’re being accused of. Your defense attorney also needs a full understanding of the Internet and computer-based evidence being used against you, and you don’t have a great deal of time to get someone up to speed.

Source: E-Commerce Times, “Internet Crimes Led to Long Jail Sentences in 2013,” Peter S. Vogel, Jan. 11, 2014

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