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Last Updated: Thursday, 26 May, 2005, 08:55 GMT 09:55 UK
Star Wars pirates forced off net
A pirate copy of Revenge of the Sith on sale in China
Pirate DVDs of Revenge of the Sith are freely available in Beijing
An internet site that let film fans illegally download the new Star Wars movie before it reached cinemas has been shut after raids in the US.

The Elite Torrents site allowed 133,000 members to download thousands of films and software programs, according to the Homeland Security Department.

The Justice Department said fans used it to download Revenge of the Sith 10,000 times before it was released.

It was shut after raids by federal agents in 10 cities across the country.

The action was the first time criminal enforcement has been taken against individuals using BitTorrent networks, which enable users to download large files such as films quickly.

Acting assistant attorney general John C Richter said the crackdown "sends a clear and unmistakeable message" that internet pirates "cannot hide behind new technology".

'Thieves'

The action coincided with the passing of a new law in Sweden banning the downloading of copyrighted material from the internet.

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) estimates that movie piracy cost the film industry $3.5bn (1.9bn) last year.

Morgan Freeman
Freeman spoke out against piracy during a visit to Cannes last week
"Shutting down illegal file swapping networks like Elite Torrents is an essential part of our fight to stop movie thieves," said MPAA president Dan Glickman.

He said the crackdown was "bad news for internet thieves and good news for preserving the magic of the movies".

Visitors to the site on Wednesday saw a notice saying it had been "permanently shut down".

Cities targeted in the raids included Chicago, Philadelphia and Austin, Texas.

"Our goal is to shut down as much of this illegal operation as quickly as possible to stem the serious financial damage to the victims of hi-tech piracy," said Mr Richter.

Damages

The Swedish parliament's decision, which comes into effect on 1 July, followed criticism from Hollywood figures for allowing the downloading of shared files.

Actor Morgan Freeman recently cited Sweden as an example of a country where illegal peer-to-peer file-sharing was a problem.

"The decision means that a clear ban has been introduced against downloading music, pictures and other material on the internet for private use without the copyright holder's permission," the parliament said in a statement.

Anyone breaking the law can be ordered to pay damages.


SEE ALSO:
Actor Freeman in anti-piracy move
20 May 05 |  Entertainment
TV download sites hit by lawsuits
13 May 05 |  Technology


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