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The state prosecutor's office of Mühlhausen in Germany has started criminal proceedings against the first of up to 15,000 users who, according to the German society for the pursuit of copyright infringements, have knowingly paid for illegal content on the internet. It is one of the biggest cases of Internet piracy and illegal copying ever discovered.

Last year German police arrested a 46 year-old lawyer who, along with two brothers from Thuringia, offered bootleg software, games and movies through the high speed download service Ftpwelt.com. Among the releases offered were movies shot in cinemas with digital camcorders. According to the police the men grossed over €1m.

Originally, German police had a list of 45,000 suspects. That list has now been trimmed down to just over 15,000. The copyright violators could face heavy fines or even prison terms. According to German news service Heise charges will now also be pressed against the masterminds behind the scheme.®

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