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Using the criminal law to fight online piracy

By Luis C. Schmidt
Partner
Intellectual Asset Management -IAM Magazine- International Report, October 2008
To date, the Mexican criminal law system has proved to be an effective means of fighting against certain forms of online piracy. Judicial precedents show an increasing number of cases in which copyright owners have been able to stop counterfeiting or piracy activities.
One recent example was a criminal action brought by the member studios of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) against SigloX.com, an illegal television website. SigloX.com provided an online television service showing hundreds of films illegally. The business and the server used to distribute the films were located in Culiacan in the state of Sinaloa. The group which organised the operation of the site was apparently protected by the local police and judiciary. Following complex investigations and a failed attempt to obtain a search warrant from a Culiacan court, the Federal Attorney’s Office took action by entering the operator’s facilities. The search found a working server as well as computers and other materials, such as original DVD copies of films. The federal prosecutor in charge of the raid proceeded to seize the server, computers and materials. Federal Attorney Office experts and representatives of the MPAA reviewed the seized material and found thousands of films in the memory of the server and computers. One person was arrested and taken before the courts on criminal charges.
The investigation is still open although the site has been taken down. The principals of the illegal business have fled and are now wanted by Interpol.

The action is a major achievement for the MPAA in its efforts to pursue piracy activities perpetrated online from countries outside the United States. Thanks to the Mexican criminal justice system, the threat posed by SigloX.com has been eliminated.