Cops in Europe take down the Jolly Roger

Piracy With ACTA negotiators closing in on a final deal, authorities in Europe showed off some big-time cross-border enforcement chops yesterday. Police in 14 countries raided the offices and data centers of several top-sites in the so-called Warez Scene, including the Swedish headquarters of PRQ, believed to host The Pirate Bay (as well as the controversial whistle-blower site WikiLeaks). Armed with warrants, the police sought records related to specific IP addresses and in some cases seized equipment.

“In pretty much all of the cases the police just walked into the datacenters, proceeded with warrants, more or less unplugged the boxes and left with them,” one source told TorrentFreak. “They knew very well exactly what they were looking for and this was a highly coordinated attack.”

At least four individuals were also detained.

The Warez Scene is a loosely affiliated network of pirate sites that specialize in obtaining early, often pre-release copies of music, movies and software, which they then use to seed larger BitTorrent file-sharing networks. Although the network has no formal structure or leadership, many of the sites targeted in yesterday’s raids are so-called top-sites, which are believed to be responsible for much of the seeding.

The raids were the result of a two-year investigation originating in Belgium and were coordinated by Belgian authorities.

Cracking down on individual pirate sites is famously a game of Whac-a-Mole, of course, especially in the shadowy world of Warez sites. But the broad-based assault on several sites simultaneously seems to have had at least some short-term psychological impact.

Most of the raided sites remained down as of Wednesday, according to reports, while some other Warez sites that were not targeted in the sweep went dark following the raids, apparently out of fear that further raids could be forthcoming.

“Many groups and especially server operators are once again scared shitless,” a source told TorrentFreak.

Odds are the operators will calm down soon enough and the sites will go back up, if not on the same servers than somewhere else. But the careful investigation and coordinated raids suggest that cross-border anti-piracy efforts are getting a higher priority from EU authorities even without an ACTA agreement in place.

Further readings:

Treaty Negotiators Turn to ‘ACTA Lite’ in Hopes of Closure

Swedish press release on raids

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