Raids in five countries crack down on pirated software

Law-enforcement authorities in the U.S. launched a series of raids Tuesday, targeted at piracy of software, computer games, and movies. In a coordinated action, authorities in the U.K., Australia, Finland, and Norway also executed search warrants for leading members of the so-called warez scene, acting on information supplied by the U.S.

One of the major targets of the offensive, known as Operation Buccaneer, was a warez group called DrinkOrDie that has some 40 members worldwide, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) said in a statement. But information gained through the investigation of DrinkOrDie has led to the infiltration of other groups and individuals, the officials added.

Operation Buccaneer, which was over a year in preparation, is the most extensive undercover investigation of software piracy the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has ever taken part in. It is the first to reach across international borders to target "the most highly placed and skilled members of these international criminal enterprises," DOJ said.

Warez groups, often working in syndicate with company insiders, can bring pirated software, games, and movies onto the black market shortly after, or even before, legitimate versions are released. The U.S. officials said they expect to seize pirated copies worth millions of dollars, as well as computer equipment used in the piracy rings.

As part of Tuesday's sting operation, a two-year undercover investigation known as Operation Bandwidth was brought to its conclusion, with more than 30 search warrants executed across the U.S. and Canada. Agents had created a warez Web site, attracting more than 200 people who used the site to illegally transfer over 100,000 files, including 12,000 separate software programs, movies, and games.

The U.S. Department of Justice can be reached online at http//:www.usdoj.gov/.

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