US imprisons Chinese man for $100M software piracy crimes

The US has jailed a Chinese man, Xiang Li, for pirating over $100 million (£62 million) worth of software.

Li, who was arrested in Saipan in June 2011, will now serve a 12 year sentence for selling the stolen software significantly cheaper than the authorised versions, with each copy going for between $20 and $1,200 (£12.70-£765). He pleaded guilty to the crime.

200 US companies accused Li of piracy, including Microsoft, Oracle, SAP and Rockwell Automation, according to the BBC. US prosecutors claim he offered over 2,000 titles in total, finding them on Internet forums and reuploading them to his websites.

Once purchased, Li would email the pirated software to customers. Payments were made to another person, who is also being prosecuted for the crime.

The piracy was discovered by a US company, which found its software on Li's websites. Given the scope of the intellectual property theft, which has cost US companies millions, the jail term will serve as a stark warning to others operating in this area.

China is considered the largest source of piracy, with between 50 per cent and 80 per cent of all such criminal activity coming from there, according to a report carried out by Dennis Blair, former Director of National Intelligence, and Jon Huntsman, former US ambassador to China. The US is estimated to lose $300 billion (£191 billion) a year to the theft.

Li will be deported from the US once he has served his sentence.