WASHINGTON, D.C. – Acting Assistant Attorney General John C.
Richter of the Criminal Division, Homeland Security Assistant Secretary
for Immigration and Customs Enforcement Michael J. Garcia, and Assistant
Director Louis M. Reigel of the FBI’s Cyber Division today announced the
first criminal enforcement action targeting individuals committing
copyright infringement on peer-to-peer (P2P) networks using cutting edge
file-sharing technology known as BitTorrent.
This morning, agents of the FBI and U.S. Immigration and
Customs Enforcement (ICE) executed 10 search warrants across the United
States against leading members of a technologically sophisticated P2P
network known as Elite Torrents. Employing technology known as
BitTorrent, the Elite Torrents network attracted more than 133,000
members and, in the last four months, allegedly facilitated the illegal
distribution of more than 17,800 titles – including movies and software
– which were downloaded 2.1 million times.
In addition to executing 10 warrants, federal agents also took
control of the main server that coordinated all file-sharing activity on
the Elite Torrents network. Anyone attempting to log on to
Elitetorrents.org today will receive the following message: “This Site
Has been Permanently Shut Down by the Federal Bureau of Investigation
and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.”
“Our goal is to shut down as much of this illegal operation as
quickly as possible to stem the serious financial damage to the victims
of this high-tech piracy – the people who labor to produce these
copyrighted products,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Richter.
“Today’s crackdown sends a clear and unmistakable message to anyone
involved in the online theft of copyrighted works that they cannot hide
behind new technology.”
“Internet pirates cost U.S. industry hundreds of billions of
dollars in lost revenue every year from the illegal sale of copyrighted
goods and new online file-sharing technologies make their job even
easier,” said Assistant Secretary Garcia. “Through today’s landmark
enforcement actions, ICE and the FBI have shut down a group of online
criminals who were using legitimate technology to create one-stop
shopping for the illegal sharing of movies, games, software and music.”
“The theft of copyrighted material is far from a victimless
crime,” said Assistant Director Reigel of the FBI. “When thieves steal
this data, they are taking jobs away from hard workers in industry,
which adversely impacts the U.S. economy. The FBI remains committed to
working with our partners in law enforcement at all levels and private
industry to identify and take action against those responsible.”
Building on the success of Operation Gridlock, a similar
takedown announced by federal law enforcement last August that has
already led to the felony convictions of three P2P copyright thieves,
Operation D-Elite targeted the administrators and “first providers” or
suppliers of copyrighted content to the Elite Torrents network. By
utilizing BitTorrent, the newest generation of P2P technology, Elite
Torrents members could download even the largest files – such as those
associated with movies and software – far faster than was possible using
more traditional P2P technology.
The content selection available on the Elite Torrents network
was virtually unlimited and often included illegal copies of copyrighted
works before they were available in retail stores or movie theatres.
For example, the final entry in the Star Wars series, “Episode III:
Revenge of the Sith,” was available for downloading on the network more
than six hours before it was first shown in theatres. In the next 24
hours, it was downloaded more than 10,000 times.
Operation D-Elite is being conducted jointly by ICE and the FBI
as part of the Computer And Technology Crime High Tech Response Team
(CATCH), a San Diego task force of specially trained prosecutors and law
enforcement officers who focus on high-tech crime. Federal and state
member agencies of CATCH include the ICE, the FBI, the Department of
Justice, the San Diego District Attorney’s Office, San Diego Police
Department, the San Diego Sheriff’s Department, and San Diego County
Operation D-Elite was coordinated and will be prosecuted by the
Justice Department’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section,
with the assistance and support of Computer Hacking and Intellectual
Property (CHIP) coordinators in San Diego and U.S. Attorneys’ Offices in
Arizona, Illinois, Kansas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia and
The Motion Picture Association of America provided valuable
assistance to the investigation.
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