The National Hi-Tech Crime Unit (NHTCU) has teamed up with the FBI and the US Department of Justice to crack a multimillion-pound global internet software piracy organisation.
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A collaboration of groups including Copyright Theft and the Business Software Alliance, the UK part of the investigation has led to the arrest of three men believed to be part of an underground software piracy organisation known as Fairlight.
The UK arrests took place on the afternoon of 21 April, when NHTCU officers, together with officers from local forces, executed search warrants at three addresses in Belfast, Manchester and Sheffield. Three men, a 30-year-old from Belfast, a 34-year-old from Manchester, and a 22-year-old from Sheffield, were arrested.
Recovered from these addresses were cracked software from all types of media, as well as seven computers, more than 100 CD copiers, offensive weapons and counterfeit driving licences and credit cards.
Detective superintendent Mick Deats, deputy head of the NHTCU, said, "Intellectual property theft is a global problem that hurts economies around the world. In addition to attacking piracy globally, this operation struck at all facets of the illegal software, game, movie, and music trade online, which is commonly referred to as the 'warez scene'."
As part of the global operation, more than 200 computers were seized, including 30 computer servers that functioned as storage and distribution hubs. These servers collectively contain hundreds of thousands of copies of pirated works. One of the storage and distribution servers seized in the US contains an estimated 65,000 separate pirated titles.
Other servers seized, so-called "elite" sites, contain the most highly coveted and valuable "new releases," many of which were distributed to the warez scene before they are commercially available to the general public.