Feds Strike Back at ‘Sith’ Bootleggers

The Force was with the Elite Torrents network yesterday. Unfortunately for
the high-speed download network that leaked the latest Star Wars flick, it
was the police force.

In the first criminal action against peer-to-peer (P2P) filesharers
deploying BitTorrent technology, federal agents executed 10 search warrants
across the country and seized control of the network’s main server.

According to the Department of Justice (DOJ), the 133,000 members of the
network are suspected of illegally distributing 2.1 million copyrighted
works across 18,000 movie, music and software titles.

The DOJ said Wednesday the downloads were “often” pre-release films,
including “Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.” Six hours before the
episodic space flick’s theatrical premiere, network members downloaded more
than 10,000 ripped DVDs of the film.

“Today’s crackdown sends a clear and unmistakable message to anyone involved
in the online theft of copyrighted works that they cannot hide behind new
technology,” Acting Assistant Attorney General John C. Richter said in a

BitTorrent itself is an application used for moving large files, such as
movies, over a P2P network. The DOJ is not targeting the technology, but
rather the ringleaders of the private networks that frequently trade in
copyrighted works. Hollywood is pursuing a similar strategy with civil
actions targeting BitTorrent server operators.

“Through today’s landmark enforcement actions, [We] have shut down a group
of online criminals who were using legitimate technology to create one-stop
shopping for the illegal sharing of movies, games, software and music,” said
Michael J. Garcia, the assistant secretary for Immigration and Customs

The DOJ strike against the alleged piracy ring follows the January guilty
pleas of two men involved in the Underground Network, five P2P networks
using Direct Connect technology to illegally trade copyrighted films and
other files.

According to the DoJ, the networks required users to share a minimum of 1GB
to 100GB of computer files with other users on the network. The men face
maximum penalties of five years in prison, a fine of $250,000 and
restitution to the victims.

Last month, President Bush signed a new law upping criminal penalties of up
to 10 years for distributing pre-release movies and music.

“Our goal is to shut down as much of this illegal operation as quickly as
possible to stem the serious financial damage to the victims of this
high-tech piracy — the people who labor to produce these copyrighted
products,” Richter said.

At the Elite Torrents network site, feds posted the following: “This Site
Has been Permanently Shut Down by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.”

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