An Arizona university student is believed to be the first person in the country to be convicted of a crime under state laws for illegally downloading music and movies from the Internet, prosecutors and activists say.
University of Arizona student Parvin Dhaliwal pleaded guilty to possession of counterfeit marks, or unauthorized copies of intellectual property.
Under an agreement with prosecutors, Dhaliwal was sentenced last month to a three-month deferred jail sentence, three years of probation, 200 hours of community service and a $5,400 fine. The judge in the case also ordered him to take a copyright class at the University of Arizona, which he attends, and to avoid file-sharing computer programs.
"Generally copyright is exclusively a federal matter," said Jason Schultz, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a technology civil liberties group. "Up until this point, you just haven't seen states involved at all."
Federal investigators referred the case to the Maricopa County Attorney's Office for prosecution because Dhaliwal was a minor when he committed the crime, said Krystal Garza, a spokeswoman for the office.
"His age was a big factor," she said. "If it went into federal court, it's a minimum of three months in jail up front."
Although Dhaliwal wasn't charged until he was 18, he was 17 when he committed the crime. Prosecutors charged him as an adult but kept it in state court to allow for a deferred sentence. Garza also said Dhaliwal had no prior criminal record.
The charge is a low-level felony but may be dropped to a misdemeanor once he completes probation, she said.
A call to Dhaliwal's attorney, James Martin, was not returned.
A man who identified himself as Dhaliwal's father, but refused to give his name, returned a message left Monday at Dhaliwal's parents' home. He said his son had made a mistake, and was trying to put the case behind him. The man declined to comment further.
Brad Buckles, executive vice president for anti-piracy at the Recording Industry Association of America, said estimates say Internet piracy has cost the industry up to $300 million a year in CD sales alone.
The FBI found more than $50 million in music and movies on Dhaliwal's computer. The illegally copied property included movies that, at the time of the theft, were available only in theaters. They included "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," "Matrix Revolutions," "The Cat In The Hat," and "Mona Lisa Smile."
A federal task force that monitors the Internet caught on to the student and got a warrant, Garza said, adding that Dhaliwal was copying and selling the pirated material.