Android app pirates plead guilty to copyright infringement

The Justice Department makes its first ever conviction against counterfeit mobile app distributors. The men that ran the AppBucket Web site reportedly distributed more than one million copyrighted apps.

Dara Kerr Former senior reporter
Dara Kerr was a senior reporter for CNET covering the on-demand economy and tech culture. She grew up in Colorado, went to school in New York City and can never remember how to pronounce gif.
Dara Kerr
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The AppBucket logo. AppBucket

The US Department of Justice has broken new ground when it comes to prosecuting counterfeit mobile app distributors. For the first time, the government has convicted two men for illegally selling copies of copyrighted apps.

The Justice Department announced on Monday that Florida residents Nicholas Anthony Narbone, 26, and Thomas Allen Dye, 21, each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit copyright infringement.

Narbone and Dye ran the AppBucket Web site, which had the tagline, "Whatever YOU want us to be!" The site specialized in hawking popular counterfeit Android apps. According to the Justice Department, they distributed more than one million copies of copyrighted apps, which translates to more than $700,000 in total retail value.

"These men trampled on the intellectual property rights of others when they and other members of the Appbucket group distributed more than one million copies of pirated apps," Acting Assistant Attorney General David A. O'Neil said in a statement. "The Criminal Division has made fighting intellectual property crime a top priority, and these convictions demonstrate our determination to prosecute those who undermine the innovations of others in new technologies."

AppBucket was in service from August 2010 to August 2012, according to the Justice Department. The agency shuttered the site in August 2012, along with two other sites that were allegedly pirating copyrighted mobile apps. At the time, the FBI said it conducted the sting by downloading thousands of copies of popular copyrighted apps from the sites.

"The wholesale theft of intellectual property as seen in this case cannot and will not go unaddressed," FBI Special Agent in Charge J. Britt Johnson said in a statement Monday. "The FBI will continue to work with its various law enforcement partners in identifying, investigating and presenting for prosecution those individuals and groups engaged in such criminal activities that involve the attempt to profit from the hard work and the developed creative ideas of others."

Sentencing for Dye and Narbone is scheduled for June and July, respectively -- they each face a five-year maximum prison sentence.