Federal agents seized computers and software Wednesday as part of an investigation targeting an Internet network used to illegally share copyrighted music, movies, software and games, Attorney General John Ashcroft said.
The case marks the first federal criminal copyright action taken against a peer-to-peer, or P2P, network in which users can access files directly from the hard drives of fellow users' computers.
Agents executed search warrants at residences and one Internet service provider in Texas, New York and Wisconsin. The warrants targeted the operators of five of the network's "hubs," rather than the individual users, and criminal charges are likely in the near future, according to the FBI.
The hubs act as a central point for people granted membership to exchange copyrighted files, with some hubs containing data each day equivalent to 60,000 feature films, reports ABC News.
Among the files offered on the network were the movies "Kill Bill," "Lord of the Rings -- The Two Towers," and "The Last Samurai," according to an affidavit filed in connection with one of the search warrants.
Agents also searched an Internet service provider, but officials declined to specify which one and said it was not a target of the investigation.
Recording studios have waged an aggressive legal campaign against the networks and their users, but have also appealed to the Justice Department for help.
An appeals court in California affirmed last week that such networks can't be held responsible for illegal copying.
Record labels have brought more than 3,000 copyright lawsuits against individuals since last year, typically winning settlements of around $5,000 (2,780 pounds).
The Recording Industry Association of America on Wednesday announced it had sued another 744 individuals and refiled suits against 152 others who had ignored or declined offers to settle, informs Reuters. Read earlier news stories by PRAVDA.Ru