Ashcroft Swoops Down on Pirates

Gretchen Gallen
WASHINGTON — Taking a break from his dislike of the porn industry, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft has turned his attention to the thriving piracy industry in what the government is calling a so-far successful three month investigation into some of the more sophisticated piracy operations in the U.S. and in countries like France, Germany, Hungary, Israel, the Netherlands, Singapore, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.

Operation Fastlink, which launched in February of this year and includes the combined efforts of the FBI, the Recording Industry of America, and the Motion Picture Association of America, has been tracking more than 100 people in the U.S. and Europe believed to have been involved in the theft of $50 million worth of music, movies, and software.

"Intellectual property theft is a global problem that hurts economies around the world," Ashcroft said in a statement. "To be effective, we must respond globally."

As part of the first leg of the investigation, which conducted 120 searches in just 24-hours, the feds targeted some of the more notorious pirating organizations that use peer-to-peer networks to amass marketable pirated content. Some of the so-called "warez" groups the feds aimed to dismantle included well-known organizations like Echelon, Fairlight, Kalisto, Class, Project X, and APC.

Warez groups typically include a network of people who participate in the preparation and distribution of stolen content like music, video games, software, and movies. According to the FBI, those groups include the inside suppliers of content, source code strippers, and distributors who transmit the illegally obtained content.

Investigations were conducted in 27 states in 10 different countries, the feds announced Thursday.

So far authorities claim the investigation has yielded the seizure of an estimated 200 computers and 30 computers that served as storage and distribution hubs for pirated content. Fastlink agents claim that one of the servers they seized contained 65,000 pirated files.