CYBERSPACE, 2005 (D.O.T.) - The U.S. Dept. of Justice has launched an 11-nation crackdown on Internet piracy organizations responsible for stealing copies of the latest Star Wars film and other movies, games and software programs worth over $50 million.
FBI agents and investigators in the other nations have already made several arrests and seized hundreds of computers, shutting down at least eight major online distribution servers dealing in pirated works.
The Justice Department "is striking at the top of the copyright piracy supply chain - a distribution chain that provides the vast majority of illegal digital content now available online," says Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.
Called Operation Site Down, the crackdown involved undercover FBI operations with help from authorities in Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Israel, the Netherlands, Portugal and the United Kingdom.
Among those arrested was Chirayu Patel of Fremont, Calif., on charges of violating federal copyright protection laws. Patel is alleged to be a member of a "warez" group, a kind of underground Internet co-op that is set up to trade in copyrighted materials.
Warez (pronounced "wares") groups are extraordinarily difficult to infiltrate because users talk only in encrypted chat rooms, their computer servers require passwords and many are located overseas, according to the FBI.
The investigations targeted "release groups" that are the original sources of pirated works that can be distributed worldwide in hours. Among the warez groups targeted are RiSCISO, Myth, TDA, LND, Goodfellaz, Hoodlum, Vengeance, Centropy, Wasted Time, Paranoid, Corrupt, Gamerz, AdmitONE, Hellbound, KGS, BBX, KHG, NOX, NFR, CDZ, TUN and BHP.
Those groups are believed responsible for stealing and distributing copyrighted works including films "Star War Episode III: Revenge of the Sith," and "Mr. and Mrs. Smith," as well as Autodesk's Autocad 2006 and Adobe's Photoshop software.
Recently, authorities shut down a popular Web site that offered the downloading of movies and other materials. Investigators said many of the copyright movies were available through the site even before their commercial release.
President Bush recently signed a new law setting tough penalties of up to 10 years in prison for anyone caught distributing a movie or song before its commercial release.
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