US law enforcement agents raided five homes and one internet service provider on Wednesday in what the US Department of Justice calls the first federal enforcement action against piracy on peer-to-peer (P2P) networks.
Agents seized computers, software and computer equipment in the searches, which took place in Texas, New York and Wisconsin. The action targeted illegal distribution of copyright protected movies, software, games and music on five P2-P networks operated by a group known as The Underground Network, the DOJ said in a statement. No charges have been filed.
"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," US Attorney-General John Ashcroft said in the 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 private sharing networks that use NeoModus' Direct Connect technology. The networks established by The Underground Network required users to share a minimum of 100 gigabytes 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, the DOJ said. The investigation is being conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Office of the US Attorney for the District of Columbia and the DOJ's Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section, the department said.
Although this the first time that the department has taken criminal enforcement action involving P2P networks and piracy, 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 P2P networks and has taken action in the past against websites offering copyright-protected material for download, a DOJ spokesman said.