Washington, DC - U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) investigators were commended at a ceremony yesterday by representatives from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for shutting down one of the largest U.S.-based online music piracy networks in history.
ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) agents stationed in the United States, Canada, France and Netherlands were recognized by L. Carlos Linares, vice president of Anti-Piracy Legal Affairs at RIAA, for their role in aggressively pursuing a North Carolina man who had personally pirated upwards of $7 million worth of songs, albums and other copyright protected content on the websites RockDizMusic.com and RockDizFile.com before they were seized by HSI authorities in 2014.
“Collaboration with industry is absolutely critical to conducting effective intellectual property enforcement,” said ICE-HSI Executive Associate Director Peter Edge. “The dedication from agents involved in this case is a testimony to the importance we place on defending the U.S. economy, protecting consumers and cracking down on criminal organizations engaged in counterfeiting and other forms of IP theft.”
The RIAA initially referred this case to the Department of Justice’s Computer Crimes and Intellectual Property Section (CCIPS), before it was transitioned to HSI offices in Norfolk, Virginia, after multiple takedown notices were ignored. Agents in Norfolk conducted undercover downloads of pirated material and gathered intelligence that revealed illegal files were stored on various servers located across North America and Europe.
Investigators also learned that Rocky Ouprasith, the operator of both illicit websites, had established a revenue sharing service that encouraged users to upload pirated content. An estimated $10-15 million of pirated music was distributed through the RockDizFile cyberlocker each month without compensating artists, songwriters or record labels during the 12 months preceding ICE’s takedown of the websites.
“On behalf of the major U.S. record labels, we are grateful for the excellent work of the ICE agents involved in this historic case,” said RIAA Chairman & CEO Cary Sherman. “Music creators cannot make a living doing what they love when sites like RockDizMusic and RockDizFile are allowed to permeate the marketplace with illegal music, creating a damaging domino effect throughout our entire economy. This agency has repeatedly shown that it will work vigilantly to protect consumers from illicit sites and preserve one of America’s greatest exports – the intellectual property of our creative industries.”
Following a search warrant on his residence in 2014, Ouprasith admitted the scheme and subsequently pleaded guilty to criminal copyright infringement. Last August, attorneys with CCIPS, who were also recognized today, finalized a plea deal that sentenced Ouprasith to federal prison for three years followed by two years of supervised release.
Founded in 2000, the IPR Center – formally codified in the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015 – is one of the U.S. government's key weapons in the fight against criminal counterfeiting and piracy. The center uses the expertise of its 23 member agencies to share information, develop initiatives, coordinate enforcement actions, and conduct investigations related to IP theft. Through this strategic interagency partnership, the IPR Center protects the public's health and safety, the U.S. economy and the war fighters.
The Recording Industry Association of America is the trade organization that supports and promotes the creative and financial vitality of the major music companies. Its members comprise the most vibrant record industry in the world, investing in great artists to help them reach their potential and connect to their fans. Nearly 85% of all legitimate recorded music produced and sold in the United States is created, manufactured and/or distributed by RIAA members. In support of this mission, the RIAA works to protect the intellectual property and First Amendment rights of artists and music labels; conduct consumer, industry and technical research; and monitor and review state and federal laws, regulations and policies. The RIAA also certifies Gold, Platinum, Multi-Platinum and Diamond sales awards as well as Los Premios De Oro y Platino, an award celebrating Latin music sales.