WASHINGTON, D.C. Attorney General John Ashcroft announced today that

in three separate federal law enforcement actions federal agents executed

approximately 100 search warrants worldwide against virtually every level of

criminal organizations engaged in illegal software piracy over the Internet.

The three Operations, codenamed “Buccaneer,” “Bandwidth” and “Digital

Piratez,” struck at all aspects of the illegal software, game and movie trade,

often referred to as “warez scene.”

“Today U.S. law enforcement initiated the most aggressive enforcement action

to date against illegal software piracy,” Attorney General Ashcroft said.

“Many of these individuals and groups believed the digital age and the

Internet allowed them to operate without fear of detection or criminal

sanction. Today, law enforcement in the U.S. and around the world proved them

wrong. These actions mark a significant milestone in the efforts of U.S. law

enforcement to work internationally to combat what is truly a global

problem,”said Ashcroft.

“The execution of these search warrants mark the completion of the most

extensive software piracy undercover investigation that the FBI has

participated in to date, and should send the message that trafficking in

stolen goods whether the property is in physical or electronic form is a

serious crime, and will be prosecuted,” said Robert S. Mueller, Director of

the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The targets of these Operations included both individuals and organizations,

known as “WAREZ” groups, that operate within the United States and in various

nations around the world and specialize in the illegal distribution over the

Internet of copyrighted software programs, computer games and movies. The

investigations will continue to identify and pursue additional targets in the

months ahead.

Operation Buccaneer:

Operation Buccaneer was the culmination of an investigation that has been

ongoing for over a year under the direction of the U.S. Customs Service and

the Justice Department’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section,

working in conjunction with the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of


Buccaneer marks the most significant law enforcement penetration ever of

international organizations engaged in the illegal distribution of copyrighted

software, games and movies over the Internet. The enforcement action involved

the simultaneous execution of 58 search warrants against high-level warez

leadership and members within the United States and abroad. It is also the

first enforcement action to reach across international borders and strike at

the most highly placed and skilled members of these international criminal


Although one of the primary criminal enterprises targeted by Operation

Buccaneer was the warez group known as “DrinkOrDie,” which consists of

approximately 40 members worldwide, the investigation has led to infiltration

and development of cases against individuals from other top groups as well.

The organizations targeted by Buccaneer are highly structured and

security-conscious criminal groups that specialize in obtaining the latest

computer software, games, and movies; stripping (“cracking”) copyright

protections; and releasing the final product to hundreds of Internet sites

worldwide. Because the “suppliers” to these groups are often company insiders,

pirated products frequently are in circulation before, or within hours, of the

release of the legitimate product to consumers. The groups are structured

specifically to avoid detection. It is expected that hundreds of thousands of

copies of software programs, computer games and movies will be recovered by

this effort, with a retail value that is expected to be in the millions of


Buccaneer also marks an unprecedented degree of cooperation and coordination

with international law enforcement in the fight against Intellectual Property

violations committed via the Internet. Through a variety of authorized means,

the United States has shared evidence with counterparts in the United Kingdom,

Australia, Norway, and Finland to help further identify and investigate

numerous significant foreign targets engaged in this criminal conspiracy.

Operation Bandwidth:

On December 11, 2001, the longest-running of the undercover operations

culminated with the execution of over 30 search warrants across the United

States and Canada. This undercover operation, code-named Bandwidth,’ was a

two-year covert investigation established as a joint investigative effort to

gather evidence to support identification and prosecution of entities and

individuals involved with illegal access to computer systems and the piracy of

proprietary software utilizing warez’ storage sites on the Internet.

Bandwidth, through the joint efforts of the Defense Criminal Investigative

Service (DCIS), the Environmental Protection Agency Office of Inspector

General (EPA-OIG), and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), supervised

by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Nevada, created a warez’

site, controlled and monitored by the undercover operation, as a means of

attracting predicated targets involved with the distribution of pirated

software. The undercover warez’ site has been accessed to transfer over

100,000 files, including over 12,000 separate software programs, movies and


Over 200 different individuals participated in the software pirating efforts.

Those individuals were able to attain first-run movies, the latest computer

games, and versions of notable software products even before they were

publicly introduced. As a result of Operation Bandwidth, thousands of copies

of pirated software are expected to be removed from circulation, as well as

the seizure and forfeiture of the computer hardware and servers used to

facilitate the crimes.

Operation Digital Piratez:

Operation Digital Piratez is a year-long undercover operation by the Federal

Bureau of Investigation’s Boston Field Office, which has been supervised by

the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of New Hampshire. On

December 11, 2001, the FBI executed nine search warrant, and obtained consent

for an additional three searches, on computers located across the country.

During this investigation, undercover Special Agents of the Federal Bureau of

Investigation successfully infiltrated several Warez distribution

organizations. This investigation targeted not only the Warez sites and those

who operated them, it also targeted the “cracking groups” specifically created

for the purpose of pirating software so that it may be distributed over the

Internet in violation old U.S. copyright laws.

Each of the ongoing investigations has benefitted from the important

assistance provided by various intellectual property trade associations,

including the Interactive Digital Software Association, the Business Software

Alliance, the Motion Picture Association and individual companies, including

Microsoft and Sega Corporation.