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A massive collection of highly-skilled, dedicated, brave law enforcement officials managed yesterday to shut down a web site alleged to facilitate the illegal trade of the latest Star Wars movie and other content.

Yes, it took the FBI and the Homeland Security Department to pull off "Operation D-Elite" - an action directed at BitTorrent hub Elite Torrents. The Feds, working off 10 search warrants, seized control of the site's central server in a quick, decisive maneuver and obtained information from the site's alleged administrators. More than 17,800 movie titles were shuffled about by 133,000 Elite Torrent members, according to a statement from the US DoJ (Department of Justice).

"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 this high-tech piracy-the people who labor to produce these copyrighted products," said Acting Assistant Attorney General John Richter. "Today's crackdown sends a clear and unmistakable message to anyone involved in the online theft of copyrighted works that they cannot hide behind new technology."

And later.

"Internet pirates cost U.S. industry hundreds of billions of dollars in lost revenue every year from the illegal sale of copyrighted goods and new online file-sharing technologies make their job even easier," said Assistant Secretary Michael Garcia. "Through today's landmark enforcement actions, ICE (Customs Enforcement) and the FBI have shut down a group of online criminals who were using legitimate technology to create one-stop shopping for the illegal sharing of movies, games, software and music."

And later.

"The theft of copyrighted material is far from a victimless crime," said Assistant Director Louis Reigel of the FBI. "When thieves steal this data, they are taking jobs away from hard workers in industry, which adversely impacts the U.S. economy. The FBI remains committed to working with our partners in law enforcement at all levels and private industry to identify and take action against those responsible."

The Feds always use almost comical language to describe P2P and BitTorrent sites, portraying them as the work of evil, swollen-brained mad computer scientists. This time we find that Elite Torrent was a "technologically sophisticated P2P network" and not just a link hub or search engine like you might find in myriad forms on the internet.

One gets the feeling that such language is meant to cover the P2P operations with a very sinister aura in the hopes that this will explain why the Homeland Security department is wasting time making sure George Lucas receives all his cash instead of protecting citizens from actual danger. Not to mention that Silicon Valley churns out far more cash for the US economy than Hollywood, meaning that jobs taken away from Disney might end up at Intel or Microsoft because of a P2P breakthrough. But such foresight would be asking a bit much of bureaucrats, especially ones greased by pigopolist pork.

We digress.

The Feds were especially pleased that visitors to the hijacked Elitetorrents.org would see the message "This Site Has been Permanently Shut Down by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement." That message, however, seems to have been quickly replaced by the "Coming Soon" note that is up now. Have the Feds been bested so soon?

"The content selection available on the Elite Torrents network was virtually unlimited and often included illegal copies of copyrighted works before they were available in retail stores or movie theatres," the DoJ said. "For example, the final entry in the Star Wars series, 'Episode III: Revenge of the Sith,' was available for downloading on the network more than six hours before it was first shown in theatres. In the next 24 hours, it was downloaded more than 10,000 times."

Kinda makes tapping phone calls seem more worthwhile, doesn't it? ®

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