WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, with help from investigators from ten other countries, has arrested four people and dismantled at least four Web sites used to illegally distribute movies, music, and software, the U.S. Department of Justice announced Thursday.
The crackdown on so-called warez distribution sites, with 70 searches conducted in the United States and another 20 searches in other countries yesterday, also resulted in law enforcement authorities identifying more than 120 members of the "organized online piracy underground," according to Justice Department officials speaking at a press conference. In the warez community, highly organized groups work together to distribute copyrighted materials, often competing with each other to be the fastest to post a free version of a movie or video game.
The Department of Justice didn't have immediate information on the four people who were arrested. The federal government could take action against other suspects, officials said.
Searches happened in ten other countries, as well: Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Israel, the Netherlands, Portugal, and the United Kingdom.
Operation Site Down
The crackdown, called Operation Site Down, resulted in the confiscation of several computers and servers, and the shutdown of at least eight warez sites, said U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. During Wednesday's action, more than $50 million worth of pirated works were seized by law enforcement, he said.
The Department of Justice will continue its "aggressive efforts to dismantle international criminal organizations that use sophisticated methods to steal staggering amounts of intellectual property," Gonzales said.
The operation targeted 22 warez groups, including Corrupt, Gamerz, Goodfellaz, HellBound, Myth, NOX, and TDA, Justice Department officials said. The officials accused these groups of pirating software such as Autodesk's Autocad 2006 and Adobe Systems' Photoshop and movies such as Mr. and Mrs. Smith and Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.
In some cases the pirated works end up traded through peer-to-peer software; in other cases the pirated copies are sold to groups that burn CDs and DVDs and sell them on the street, said Michael DuBose, deputy chief of the Justice Department's Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section.
"The theft of this property strikes at the heart of America's economy," said Louis Reigel, assistant director of the FBI Cyber Division. "This theft deprives many Americans and other workers around the globe of their right to be paid for their labor and enjoy the value of their hard work."