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Wednesday, 12 December, 2001, 10:45 GMT
Huge piracy ring raided
Genuine videos
Films can be accessed before their release on video
Authorities in six countries have launched the largest anti-piracy operation ever to bring down a transatlantic ring believed to be the major providers of illegal software on the internet.


There is currently nothing that the software industry has done in terms of copy protecting their programmes that has not been defeated by DrinkorDie

Allan Doody
US Customs official
The raids - carried out in the United States, Australia, Canada, Norway, Finland and United Kingdom - targeted a group known as DrinkorDie, the most successful ring in a global network of pirates able to access all types of media including computer operating systems, new films and computer games.

They then post the material on the internet for free download.

In the US, agents carried out raids in 27 cities, seizing over 100 computers which will be examined for illegal activity.

A further 19 searches were carried out in five other countries, and police in the UK made six arrests on charges of conspiracy to defraud.

US officials said more arrests were likely after agents had sifted through the data contained in the confiscated computers.

Ahead of the game

"Operation Buccaneer" was the biggest global anti-pirate effort to date and the result of more than a year of undercover work.

Genuine Microsoft software
Microsoft was one of the hackers' victims
US officials say the pirates - whose postings include the latest Microsoft software and recent films such as Harry Potter - are responsible for 95% of all pirated software available online, causing at least $1bn in lost revenues each year.

DrinkorDie, founded in Moscow in 1993, first gained the respect of hackers for allegedly releasing a copy of the operating system Microsoft Windows 95 two weeks before its official launch.

Members of the US group are said to include corporate executives, computer professionals and students from universities such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of California at Los Angeles, Duke and Purdue.

Several of the British suspects are believed to be employed in IT management or consultancy.

Showing off skills

Using a network of hidden internet sites and chatrooms, they made their way through encryption codes to access the software, which they then often hid in secret web locations on university computers.

Officials said members of the ring would typically not make money from their efforts, and that many appeared to be involved in the secret organisation simply to prove their hacking skills.

All those found guilty face charges relating to the illegal distribution of copyright material, which carries a maximum of five years in jail for each count.

Only those involved in the distribution of pirated software would be charged, not the end users, police said.

See also:

15 Nov 01 | Asia-Pacific
HK escapes Xbox ban
09 Aug 01 | New Media
Hollywood hits back at hackers
29 Jul 01 | Business
Software piracy on the rise
07 Mar 01 | Entertainment
Hollywood faces piracy battle
20 Jul 01 | Sci/Tech
Piracy problems stain Windows XP
06 Jun 01 | South Asia
Clamp down on computer piracy
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