DOJ cracks down on file sharing network

Federal agents this morning executed search warrants against five individuals suspected of operating illegal file sharing Hubs in the Justice Department's first crackdown on copyright violations on a peer-to-peer network.

Agents seized computers, software and other equipment, but no arrests were reported.

The searches capped a months-long sting operation in a suspected conspiracy to distribute copyrighted material. During the investigation an FBI agent downloaded 72 gigabytes of material from a file sharing network called the Underground Network.

According to an FBI affidavit for a search warrant, the Underground Network has about 7,000 members using Direct Connect peer-to-peer software. Users join and access Hubs, which are servers operated by an individual, which act as brokers for file sharing. Hub operators on the network required users to make available from 1G to 100G of files for sharing on their computers.

The undercover agent joined five of the most active Hubs, using computers loaded with several gigabytes of copyrighted material, and downloaded copyrighted material from other computers on the Hubs.

The agent downloaded 40 software applications, 13 games, 178 recordings and 84 movies, including 'Kill Bill, Vol. 1'; 'The Lord of the Rings'The Two Towers' and 'Saving Private Ryan.'

The Hubs posted disclaimers prohibiting the illegal sharing of copyrighted material, but when the Recording Industry Association of America posted a cease-and-desist order on one Hub forum in May, the notice was removed and the RIAA was blocked from the site.

Warrants were executed against five individuals and one Internet service provider in New York, Texas and Wisconsin.

The investigation is part of Operation Digital Gridlock, a multiagency operation of the FBI, U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, and DOJ's computer crime and intellectual property section.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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