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FBI raids homes in file-share probe

Associated Press | August 26 2004

WASHINGTON -- The FBI seized computers, software, and equipment as part of an investigation into illegal sharing of copyrighted movies, music, and games over an Internet ''peer-to-peer" network, Attorney General John Ashcroft said yesterday.

Search warrants were executed at residences and an Internet service provider in Texas, New York, and Wisconsin as part of the first federal criminal copyright action taken against a P2P network, in which users can access files directly from computers of others in the network.

The warrants sought evidence about the operators of five ''hubs" of the ''Underground Network," a group of about 7,000 users who, prosecutors charge, repeatedly violated federal copyright laws by swapping feature films, music, software, and computer games.

Unlike file-sharing networks popular with tens of millions of Internet users worldwide, the smaller network targeted by the Justice Department was managed by centralized ''hub" computers that restricted participation. Technical experts said it operated similarly to the former Napster service.

Industry groups say Internet piracy of intellectual property is a huge and growing problem. Ashcroft estimated $19 billion is the total cost to creative artists, management firms, distribution companies, theaters, and all the employees connected with them.