Feds Bust File-Sharing Sites

Joris Evers
IDG News Service

August 25, 2004

Law enforcement agents have raided five homes and one ISP in what the Department of Justice calls the first federal enforcement action against piracy on peer-to-peer networks.

Agents seized computers, software, and computer equipment in the searches, which took place Wednesday in Texas, New York, and Wisconsin. The action targets illegal distribution of copyright-protected movies, software, games, and music on five P-to-P networks operated by a group known as The Underground Network, the DOJ says in a statement. No charges have been filed.

Underground Sites

"The execution of today's warrants disrupted an extensive peer-to-peer network suspected of enabling users to traffic illegally in music, films, software and published works," Attorney General John Ashcroft says in the DOJ's statement. "The Department of Justice is committed to enforcing intellectual property laws, and we will pursue those who steal copyrighted materials, even when they try to hide behind the false anonymity of peer-to-peer networks."

The action did not target well-known public file-swapping services such as Kazaa or Gnutella, but went after lower-profile, private sharing networks that use NeoModus's Direct Connect technology. The networks established by The Underground Network require users to share a minimum of 100GB of files with other users on the network, according to the DOJ.

The crackdown on file-sharing is part of an ongoing investigation dubbed Operation Digital Gridlock, according to the DOJ. The investigation is being conducted by the FBI, the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, and the DOJ's Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section, the department says.

Ongoing Efforts

Law enforcement officials say this is the first time the department is taking criminal enforcement action involving P-to-P networks and piracy. However, it is not the first time the DOJ has involved itself with file-sharing or illegal downloads online.

The department in May announced an initiative to fight child pornography on P-to-P networks. The DOJ has also taken action in the past against Web sites offering copyright-protected material for download, a DOJ spokesperson says.

Copyright 2004 PC World Communications, Inc