Robert F. Kennedy Department of Justice Building in Washington.

Robert F. Kennedy Department of Justice Building in Washington. 

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

Artur Sargsyan, the owner and operator of Sharebeast, a file-sharing site popular among music fans before it was shut down two years ago, has pleaded guilty to criminal copyright infringement. The U.S. Department of Justice said Sargsyan used Sharebeast to store unauthorized copies of copyrighted works, which were promoted via links from a network of other websites he owned.

"Through Sharebeast and other related sites, this defendant profited by illegally distributing copyrighted music and albums on a massive scale," said U.S. Attorney John Horn. "The collective work of the FBI and our international law enforcement partners have shut down the Sharebeast websites and prevented further economic losses by scores of musicians and artists."

Sargsyan operated Sharebeast.com, Newjams.com and Albumjams.com from at least 2012 through 2015. Collectively, the sites facilitated the distribution and reproduction of more than 1 billion copies of copyrighted works, according to the DOJ. In many cases the site got its hands on copies of music before commercial release, further fueling the rage of music industry groups like the RIAA, which tagged Sharebeast as the most popular infringing music site in the U.S. -- with 14-16 million monthly visitors at its height.

"The network was responsible for providing millions of downloads of popular music files including unauthorized pre-release albums and tracks," commented Brad Buckles, evp, anti-piracy, RIAA. "This illicit activity was a gut-punch to music creators who were paid nothing by the service. We are incredibly grateful for the government’s commitment to protecting the rights of artists and labels."

The Sharebeast network was shuttered in August 2015, and with assists from law enforcement sites around the globe, the FBI was able to seize Sargsyan's computer servers used to distribute the copyrighted music. The RIAA said at the time that it had reported more than 100,000 infringing files on the site, with chairman and CEO Cary Sherman accusing it of operating "with flagrant disregard for the rights of artists and labels while undermining the legal marketplace."

Sentencing for Sargsyan, 29, has been scheduled for Dec. 4.