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Germany cracks down on software pirates

300 homes raided across Europe

Providers of illegal downloading services in several European countries are running for cover following a co-ordinated bust earlier in the week.

Local police raided more than 300 homes and offices in Austria, Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic and the Netherlands following leads provided by GVU (the German Federation Against Copyright Theft), the group's spokeswoman, Diane Gross, said today in a telephone interview. The majority of the sites were in Germany, she said.

Around 30 individuals are being accused of operating as 'warez' providers, according to Gross. "We aren't aware of any arrests but we know that these people are under investigation," she said.

Warez, a derivative of the plural form of 'software', refers primarily to copyright material being traded illegally by organised groups, according to the free-source encyclopedia Wikipedia.

Police in Frankfurt seized a server accessed by 60 alleged accomplices in the primary ring, Doris M"ller-Scheu, a spokeswoman for the Frankfurt state prosecutor, said in a telephone interview. "These people used the server to illegally download movies, computer games, music and other online content," she added.

In total, 20 servers were confiscated, according to GVU.

In addition to the Frankfurt state prosecutor, GVU collaborated with prosecutors in the German cities of Düsseldorf and Ellwangen, Gross said.

Over the past four years, GVU has noticed a sharp rise in 'warez' providers and demand for their services, particularly movie downloads, which have proliferated because of inexpensive computers with faster processors and larger hard drives, and high-speed internet connections, according to Gross. More than 400 people in Germany are suspected of belonging to 'release groups', typically consisting of between 10 and 15 people who obtain and distribute copyright material illegally over the internet, she said.

Their network consists of servers given a variety of names, such as Unreality, Dragon, Laboratory, Final Heaven and Code Red.

Police officials in the four countries neighbouring Germany were contacted by criminal investigators in Germany after GVU provided information indicating that the online piracy operations were international.


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