San Francisco?s International Computer Crime Squad launched Operation Cyber Strike on Tuesday with raids on premises around the US on Tuesday in the latest stage of an eight month software piracy investigation.
The FBI used search warrants to raid premises at eight sites across the country at 7 a.m. on Tuesday morning, securing the sites, taking the systems off-line and seizing the equipment and other items. If convicted of criminal copyright infringement, the operators of the illegal BBS systems could face sentences of up to 10 years in prison and fines of up to $250,000.
The raids, which took place in Georgia, Ohio, Florida, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Iowa and California, were aimed at "individuals and groups who have banded together to pass protected/restricted/copyrighted information and commercially copyrighted software."
CyberStrike has focused on the use of computer bulletin boards as the link for pirating some of the most popular program software available commercially -- graphics, netware, utilities, operating systems and games. An FBI spokesman said: "Today's action was aimed at confirming the identification of these system operators and seizing equipment they have been utilizing to further their criminal enterprise."
Bob Kruger, vice president of the Busienss Software Alliance, praised the FBI?s decision to focus on the Internet, which he described as an electronic haven for pirates. "Cyber Strike represents the most ambitious law enforcement action to date against Internet piracy," he said.
The FBI named companies specifically affected by piracy as including Microsoft, Sega Sony and Adobe Systems. "This is a pervasive problem and affects everyone out there trying to sell their software," said Greg Wrenn, corporate counsel for Adobe Systems. "It's very much an underworld that traffics in this stuff," he said.
In a statement, Adobe said it had assisted the FBI by providing technical review of pirated Adobe software and necessary legal documentation. Adobe investigators also accompanied FBI agents on one of the raids to provide technical assistance in identifying illegal copies of Adobe products.
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