U.S. Searches Computers, Trying to Disrupt Piracy
Published: August 26, 2004
Federal authorities searched computers in six locations yesterday in an attempt to disrupt a network used to trade copies of movies, software, games and music. The Justice Department said the searches represented the first time that so-called peer-to-peer networks had been singled out for a criminal enforcement action under copyright law. The department has stepped up enforcement of copyright law this year, but until now it has focused on organizations known as warez groups, which steal copies of movies and other materials to make them available to downloaders. In a peer-to-peer network, like the widely used Kazaa system, the computers of individual users trade files without going through a central computer. The people whose computers were searched, the government said, operated hubs that coordinated the sharing of files. John Malcolm, a senior vice president of the Motion Picture Association of America, praised the move as a sign that the government takes online piracy seriously.
The F.B.I. conducted a covert investigation by loading two computers with copyrighted material and joining the Underground Network, a move that let it identify five hub computers that coordinated the file sharing. An F.B.I. agent then downloaded 84 movies, 40 software programs, 13 games and 178 songs from the network. The Recording Industry Association of America, a trade group representing the major record labels, said yesterday that it had sued more than 700 users of peer-to-peer file sharing networks.