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Harbor City Man Pleads Guilty To Illegal Upload Of Kanye West Album

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LOS ANGELES (CBS) — A Harbor City man faces up to five years in federal prison for illegally uploading an advance copy of a Kanye West album to the Internet before the CD went on sale.

According to court papers, Richard Franco Montejano has agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy to commit copyright infringement, for uploading the Kanye West album “Graduation” to the Internet about a week before the CD went on sale, in September 2007.

Prosecutors said Montejano was a member of an Internet music release group called “Old School Classics”, or “OSC.”  OSC was part of the “Warez” scene, an underground online community consisting of individuals and organized groups using the Internet to illegally distribute copyrighted computer software, games, movies and music, often before the titles were available to the public.

Two OSC members were employees of a pressing plant in Kings Mountain, N.C. that manufactures compact discs for the Universal Music Group, so the group began to specialize in pre-release copies of rap and hip-hop albums.

Officials say Warez groups typically reproduce and distribute thousands of copyrighted songs over the Internet, which in turn are reproduced and distributed hundreds of thousands of times.

In a signed plea agreement prosecutors wrote that Montejano “voluntarily and intentionally joined the OSC conspiracy for the purpose of copying and distributing copyrighted sound recordings without authorization.”

When he was arrested, investigators found more than 27,000 unauthorized files on his home computer, with a retail value of greater than $10,000 but less than $30,000.

Montejano faces a possible punishment of up to five years imprisonment, three years of supervised release, and a fine of up to $250,000 when he is sentenced.

(©2011 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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