Chinese Nationals Charged by U.S. With Software Piracy

Chinese Nationals Charged With Software Piracy
Signage is photographed outside the headquarters of Agilent Technologies. Photographer: Chip Chipman/Bloomberg

Two Chinese nationals were charged with illegally exporting technology to their home country and pirating software from U.S. companies including Agilent Technologies Inc., federal officials said.

Xiang Li, 35, and Chun Yan Li, 33, a married couple from Chengdu, China, were indicted by a federal grand jury in Wilmington, Delaware, according to a statement today by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

“Counterfeiting and intellectual-property theft are seriously undermining U.S. business and innovation -- more than $100 million in lost revenue in this one case alone,” John Morton, the agency’s director, said in the statement.

The couple are accused of running a website called “Crack 99” that sold copies of software the “access-control mechanisms” of which had been circumvented, Morton said. The pair is charged with distributing more than 500 pirated copyrighted works to more than 300 purchasers in the U.S. and overseas from April 2008 to June 2011. The case was unsealed today.

The software includes programs made by Santa Clara, California-based Agilent and Canonsburg, Pennsylvania-based Ansys Inc., according to the indictment.

Xiang Li was arrested by federal agents in June 2011 on an earlier indictment in the case. Chun Yan Li “remains an at-large fugitive in Chengdu,” according to the statement.

Agilent Design Program

An Agilent product intended to speed up the design process for electronic equipment was among the software illegally copied by the couple, according to the indictment. The SystemVue 2009 program sells for $45,000.

Stuart Matlow, an Agilent spokesman, didn’t immediately return a phone call and e-mail seeking comment on the indictment.

In connection with the charges, a former National Aeronautics and Space Administration employee has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement, the government said.

Cosburn Wedderburn, 38, of Windsor Mill, Maryland, pleaded guilty in federal court in Delaware today, according to court filings. Government agents said Wedderburn bought more than $1 million in pirated software from the couple’s website.

Wedderburn is facing a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, according to the government’s statement. The ex-NASA employee has agreed to testify against the Lis as part of a plea bargain, David Hall, one of the prosecutors assigned to the case, said in a phone interview.

Dennis E. Boyle, Wedderburn’s attorney, wasn’t immediately available to respond to an e-mail or message left at his office seeking comment on his client’s involvement in the case.

The case is U.S. v. Li, 10-cr-112, U.S. District Court, District of Delaware (Wilmington).