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Feds target unauthorized online exchange of copyrighted materials

Updated:
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Justice Department is waging a new attack on Internet pirates, targeting illegal trading in first-run movies, video games and other copyrighted materials.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales planned later Thursday to announce arrests and other measures that law enforcement officials are taking as part of Operation Site Down. The Justice Department said the operation is aimed at large-scale illegal trafficking of copyrighted materials.

Investigators in 11 countries are taking part in the operation, which has so far yielded a handful of arrests, said a law enforcement official, who spoke on condition of anonymity so as not to pre-empt the official announcement.

Among those arrested was Chirayu Patel of Fremont, Calif., on charges of violating federal copyright protection laws, the official said.

Patel is alleged to be a member of a ``warez'' group, a kind of underground Internet co-op that is set up to trade in copyrighted materials. Warez (pronounced ``wares'') groups are extraordinarily difficult to infiltrate because users talk only in encrypted chat rooms, their computer servers require passwords and many are located overseas, the FBI has said.

Warez groups differ from popular file-swapping networks, where millions of files are shared without such precautions.

Last month, authorities shut down a popular Web site that facilitated the downloading of movies and other materials. Investigators said many of the copyright movies were available through the Elite Torrents site even before their commercial release. No arrests were announced at the time.

President Bush signed a new law last month setting tough penalties of up to 10 years in prison for anyone caught distributing a movie or song prior to its commercial release.
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