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International Law Enforcement Sails After Criminal Warez Groups


Graphic for Anti-PiracyLet's get one thing straight: we're not talking here about kids who make the occasional illegal download of a popular song from the Internet and share it with friends (though that, of course, is wrong).

We're talking about big business--professionals who get up in the morning and put in a day of stealing copyrighted music, movies, games, and software from the Internet, processing them, and distributing them through peer-to-peer (P2P) or file-sharing networks.

How do these "businesses" work? Known as "warez release groups," these syndicates are highly organized:

  • plants in music, film, and software industries supply the newest/hottest items to the groups.
  • "crackers" strip out the embedded source codes and insert new trademarks.
  • "Q&A" test the product to make sure it works.
  • distributors transmit the items through networks.

"Executives" not only control these day-to-day operations, they also recruit new members, manage archive sites, and shield their illegal operations from law enforcement with sophisticated encryption.

What's the harm? Economic harm. Online piracy and trading of music, movies, business, and gaming software adds up to lost revenues--enough to put companies out of business, lose jobs, negatively impact the economy, and, in the end, take money out of your pockets as the losses are passed on to you, the consumer, in the form of higher prices.

Not just a U.S. crime problem. These acts of piracy are executed on an international stage--and they they need an international law enforcement response. Last month, they got one: OPERATION FASTLINK, the largest global enforcement action ever undertaken against online piracy.

On April 21st of this year, the FBI and our international law enforcement partners conducted some 120 searches in 31 states and 10 countries to dismantle some of the best known and most aggressive online piracy enterprises. We seized over 200 computers and servers, including some that actually housed hundreds of thousands of copies of pirated works. We've identified nearly 100 leaders in these groups and expect that number to go much higher in the days ahead.

We hope you'll help. Please take time to learn more about the law and policy on cyber crimes. To report cyber crimes, please contact your local FBI Field Office or file a complaint through the Internet Crime Complaint Center.

Related links: FBI press release | DOJ press release