Software 'Robin Hoods' Get Prison Time

Friday, four members of the international piracy ring "DrinkorDie" were convicted of software theft in the United Kingdom. In total, 70 suspects were rounded up in 12 separate countries. The group's activities spanned over a decade, culminating in an operation that extended into some of the world's largest software companies.

Alex Bell, Steven Dowd, Mark Vent and Andrew Eardley were each sentenced to prison for two and a half years, two years, 18 months and an 18-month suspended sentence, respectively. According to Reuters, Dowd and Bell tried to beat the rap, pleading innocent, but were found guilty. Eardley and Vent submitted a guilty plea in advance of trial.

DrinkorDie was responsible for distributing pirated versions of Microsoft products including the Windows operating system and Office, as well as version of Norton Antivirus, games and other software. On several instances, contacts within those companies contributed proprietary knowledge to the group to enrich its efforts.

Persecutors revealed that group was composed of corporate executives, university administrators and IT managers, referring to the white collar criminals as "plain thieves" that cost the software industry countless millions of dollars in revenue.

"They see themselves as stars, night time tappers of keyboards. You might feel that their lives are rather sad, living as they do for very large parts of their days and nights in a virtual world, in front of a computer monitor, cocooned from existence," said the prosecutor.

The crackdown was a coordinated effort by international law enforcement.

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