The Department of Justice of the United States, has filed the first of a set of lawsuits over counterfeit Smartphone applications, charging four men who now each face up to five years in prison if convicted.

Mythili Raman, acting assistant attorney general for the Department Of Justice’s criminal division, said in a statement on Friday, ”These crimes involve the large-scale violation of intellectual property rights in a relatively new and rapidly growing market…While this represents the first counterfeit apps case by the Department of Justice, it exemplifies our longstanding commitment to prosecute those who steal the creative works of others,” she said.

DOJ Lawsuit

The lawsuits were filed in the Northern District of Georgia on Thursday and Friday last week. They charge the four men with conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement. One lawsuit names, Thomas Allen Dye, 21, and Nicholas Anthony Narbone, 26, both of Orlando, Florida, while the other lawsuit is against Kody Jon Peterson, 22, of Clermont, Florida and Thomas Pace, 38, of Oregon City, Oregon, the Dept has said.  In each of these cases, the men are accused of conspiring to copy Android apps and distributing more than a million copies of them through online markets they set up called Appbucket and Snappzmarket. The DOJ have said that these markets were shut down last year.  This is the first time domains involving mobile app marketplaces had been seized.

The defendants acted without permission from the apps’ developers, which are otherwise sold through legitimate sites such as Google Play, the DOJ said. The Dept didn’t say which apps were involved.  A spokesman for the DOJ, citing court records, said the accused charged a subscription fee for the online markets.

Appbucket was in operation between August 2010 and August 2012 and Snappzmarket operated between May 2011 and August 2012, the DOJ said. Court records show that during a five-month period in 2010, Nicholas Anthony Narbone allegedly received more than US$60,000 in subscriptions to Appbucket.

U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates of the Northern District of Georgia said in the statement, ”We are committed to protecting copyright owners, and we will continue to vigorously prosecute those who steal all forms of copyrighted work.”

[Image via greencrosscenter]