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U.S. plans new raids on file swappers

By Robert Lemos
Staff Writer, CNET News.com

December 12, 2001, 2:30 p.m. PT

Federal officials said new raids targeting Internet "warez" groups are in the works 
following the largest U.S. crackdown on Internet piracy in history this week, 
including potential strikes outside the country.

"This is only the first step," said Kevin Bell, spokesman for the nation's customs 
agency. "The investigation is ongoing."

The U.S. Customs Service, along with the U.S. Department of Justice, on Tuesday raided 
universities and high-tech businesses in 27 cities as part of an international 
crackdown on underground groups that actively trade in illicit copies of software and 
digital media.

Dubbed "Operation Buccaneer," the enforcement action occurred simultaneously in four 
other countries, where an additional 22 search warrants were issued, resulting in the 
arrests of nine people.

None of the suspects in the United States have yet been arrested.

"This investigation underscores the severity and scope of a multibillion-dollar 
software swindle over the Internet, as well as the vulnerabilities of this technology 
to outside attack," Customs Commissioner Robert Bonner said in a statement.

In the first overt action of a 15-month investigation of such organized groups of 
pirates, the Customs Service targeted the oldest and largest group, known as 

"We are targeting these groups that do it all the time," said Customs Service 
spokesman Bell. "If you are at your house one night and you want to get a free copy of 
some software, that's not what we are talking about."

Customs agents seized 129 computers in the 38 searches nationwide, said Bell. Among 
the data captured were Web sites with so much pirated media that it took 4,000 pages 
to list the titles. Another seized system had more than 5,000 movies, including the 
blockbuster "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone."

"The data was available to millions of people all over the world," said Bell, who 
added that another 15 countries may take part in the action.

Members of the DrinkOrDie group included corporate executives, computer network 
administrators and students at major U.S. universities who regularly uploaded 
copy-protected software and digital media to be broken by other members of the group.

There are perhaps as many as 10 major warez communities such as DrinkOrDie. And they 
don't do it for profit, said Bell.

"They believe in a free Internet," he said. "They don't want any rules or any laws 
that inhibit what they do."

Warez (pronounced "wares") describes software and digital material that has been 
stripped of anti-copying protections and made available on the Internet for 

Washington, D.C.-based Business Software Alliance, which represents the software 
industry's interests, has estimated that U.S. software companies lost $2.6 billion in 
2000 because of software piracy.

Because the amount of data and evidence that the Customs Service must sort through is 
so large, Bell said he expected arrest warrants for subjects in the case would take 
two to three months to obtain.

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