RealTime IT News

DOJ Raids Private P2P Operation

Authorities raided five residences and and an Internet service provider Wednesday morning in the first federal criminal enforcement action against private peer-to-peer (P2P) networks.

Search warrants were executed in Texas, New York and Wisconsin as part of an investigation into the illegal distribution of copyrighted movies, software, games and music over P2P networks. Federal agents seized computers, software and computer-related equipment in the raids.

"Today's actions send an important message to those who steal over the Internet. When online thieves illegally distribute copyrighted programs and products, they put the livelihoods of millions of hard-working Americans at risk and damage our economy," U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft said at a Wednesday afternoon press conference.

Ashcroft said the joint investigation by the FBI, the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, and the Justice Department's Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section, known as Operation Gridlock, "disrupted an extensive peer-to-peer network suspected of enabling users to traffic illegally in music, films, software and published works."

The operation targeted the illegal file sharing of copyrighted materials over five P2P networks that belonged to a group known as the Underground Network. According to the DOJ, the networks required users to share a minimum of 1 to 100 gigabytes of computer files with other users on the network.

The DOJ search warrants unsealed Wednesday said members of the Underground Network downloaded shared files from the network members' hard drives. The DOJ said theft through the illegal reproduction and distribution of movies, software, games and music is estimated to annually cost U.S. industries $19 billion worldwide.

"This is the first federal law enforcement action against criminal copyright infringement using P2P networks and shows that we are committed to combating piracy, regardless of the medium used to commit these illegal acts," said Christopher A. Wray, assistant attorney general for the Criminal Division of the DOJ.

The maximum penalty for criminal copyright infringement for a first-time offender is up to five years in prison and a fine of $250,000.