(Reuters) - The U.S. Department of Justice on Friday announced criminal charges against four people over their alleged roles in trafficking pirated Android mobile device applications, in the first counterfeit apps case brought by the agency.
Kody Peterson, 22, of Clermont, Florida, was accused of conspiring with other members of the SnappzMarket Group between May 2011 and August 2012 to illegally create and distribute more than 1 million copies of Android apps without permission from the apps' software developers and copyright owners.
Three other defendants -- Thomas Dye, 21, of Jacksonville, Florida; Nicholas Narbone, 26, of Orlando, Florida; and Thomas Pace, 38, of Oregon City, Oregon -- were accused of involvement in a similarly-sized conspiracy on behalf of the Appbucket Group between August 2010 and August 2012.
Each defendant was charged by federal prosecutors in the Northern District of Georgia with one count of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement, and faces up to five years in prison, the Justice Department said.
"These crimes involve the large-scale violation of intellectual property rights in a relatively new and rapidly growing market," said Mythili Raman, acting head of the Justice Department's criminal division, in a statement. "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."
The Justice Department in August 2012 seized the website domain names snappzmarket.com, appbucket.net and applanet.net, saying they were trafficking in pirated Android apps.
Peterson was arraigned on Thursday and the other defendants on Friday, the department said. The charges were announced late Friday afternoon.
Information about the defendants' lawyers was not immediately available following the announcement because the website for the federal court for the Northern District of Georgia was not working. A Justice Department spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for that information. The individual defendants could not immediately be located.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; editing by Andrew Hay)