Feds Raid 70 Warez Groups

Rhett Pardon
WASHINGTON – Cracking down hard on “warez” groups, federal agents completed 70 raids this week as part of “Operation Site Down” and seized more than $50 million worth of pirated videos, games, music and software like Autodesk’s Autocad 2006 and Adobe’s Photoshop.

The Justice Department is claiming that the warez groups targeted were part of a vast international piracy ring that has now been disbanded. Agents also arrested four people in immediate connection with the distribution of pirated material.

Typically, warez groups are the first stage in a piracy ring. Also called “first providers,” the majority of content that falls into their hands comes from the Internet. According to Justice, once a warez group prepares a stolen work for distribution, the material is distributed within minutes to top-level warez servers throughout the world. From there, pirated works are distributed globally, filtering down to peer-to-peer and other public file sharing networks.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and FBI Cyber Division Assistant Director Louis M. Reigel called the raids “another far-reaching and aggressive international enforcement action against criminal organizations involved in the illegal online distribution of copyrighted material.”

Operation Site Down included law enforcement manpower from 10 other countries, Gonzales said, and was the culmination of three separate undercover investigations conducted by the FBI. Searches and arrests occurred in Canada, Israel, France, Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, United Kingdom, Germany, Portugal and Australia.

The raids took place over a 24-hour time period.

“By dismantling these networks, the department is striking at the top of the copyright piracy supply chain – a distribution chain that provides the vast majority of the illegal digital content now available online,” Gonzales said. “And by penetrating this illegal world of high-technology and intellectual property theft, we have shown that law enforcement can and will find – and we will prosecute – those who try to use the Internet to create piracy networks beyond the reach of law enforcement.”

Warez groups targeted by Operation Site down included RiSCISO, Myth, TDA, LND, Goodfellaz, Hoodlum, Vengeance, Centropy, Wasted Time, Paranoid, Corrupt, Gamerz, AdmitONE, Hellbound, KGS, BBX, KHG, NOX, NFR, CDZ, TUN and BHP.

Justice estimates that the $50 million in pirated content is only a conservative reflection of how many dollars will be lost by the time the closure of those 70 groups reflects on the wide circuit of pirates that rely on them for stolen content and goods.