Police crack international piracy ring

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High tech crime police in 11 countries have cracked a multi-million pound software piracy ring.

The National High Tech Crime Unit (NHTCU) and police forces over Europe, Israel and Singapore seized 200 computers in an FBI crackdown on piracy, named Operation Fastlink.

Thirty computers of the 120 seized were storage and distribution servers that contained thousands of pirated works. One of the servers, found the US, contained an estimated 65,000 pirated titles. Police also seized weapons, counterfeit driving licenses and credit cards.

"Intellectual property theft is a global problem that hurts economies around the world," said Detective Superintendent Mick Deats, deputy head of the National Hi-Tech Crime Unit said, "To be effective, we must respond globally. We will always act in partnership with other law enforcement agencies to counteract all forms of hi-tech crime."

Officers from the NHTCU and local forces executed search warrants at three UK addresses in Belfast, Manchester and Sheffield. Three British men, a 30 year-old from Belfast, a 34 year-old from Manchester, and a 22 year-old from Sheffield, believed to be part of the organization known as 'Fairlight', were arrested.

The estimated value of the pirated works seized exceeded $50 million.

"Each time a piracy operation is closed down, the UK takes a step towards capturing the benefits of a reduced piracy rate; improved economies, new jobs and increased tax revenues," said Beth Scott, VP of the Business Software Alliance, an organization that helped to track the ring. 

Other groups targeted in the operation included Echelon, Class and Project X, all of which specialized in pirating computer games.

Top pirate release groups are ructured organizations that use sophisticated technology to shield their activity from victims and law enforcement.

An IDC study in 2003 reported that a 10 percent reduction in UK piracy by 2006 would contribute $17.2 billion to its GDP.


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