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German police bust massive movie piracy ring

Raid 750 premises

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More than 750 premises were raided - and 15 people arrested - in a crackdown against a huge Internet piracy network in Germany this week.

The raids on 16 and 18 March targeted a network of pirates blamed for illegally distributing more than 500 German-language versions of popular films on the Net since 2001.

Among the films first pirated by these so-called "release groups" were The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Sönke Wortmann's Das Wunder von Bern, and Shawn Levy's Cheaper by the Dozen.

The operation is billed by the Motion Picture Association as one of the largest offensives ever undertaken against the organised production and distribution of copyright material over the Internet.

The raids follow two years of intensive investigation by the German Federation Against Copyright Theft and were conducted in close cooperation with local law enforcement authorities and the German Ministry of Justice. Raids throughout Germany in Munich, Frankfurt am Main, Bremen, Cologne and the Ruhr region resulted in the seizure of 19 servers (with a total capacity of 38 terabytes), 200+ PCs and over 40,000 CD-Rs and DVD-Rs.

"Over 15 individuals" were detained for questioning - somewhat low, considering 750 premises were raided. The operation also netted a gang in the Ruhr region supplying current films and the latest software on DVD-Rs and CD-Rs. The gang obtained its source material from "release groups" and operated a disc-burning lab with 24 high-speed burners.

Cologne police also targeted a group which hacked into the servers of universities and corporates to store warez. ®

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