25 Aug Ashcroft announces first FBI raid on file-sharing network
FBI agents searched five homes and an internet service provider Wednesday morning as part of an effort to crack down on peer-to-peer Internet file sharing, Attorney General John Ashcroft said in a press conference later that day.
The raids were conducted in Texas, New York and Wisconsin. The Wisconsin raid took place in Waukesha, the Associated Press reported.
In his prepared statement Wednesday afternoon, Ashcroft said the searches were part of “Operation Digital Gridlock,” and that officials were after members of a group called “The Underground Network.”
Members of this network were required to share at least one gigabyte of files each, he said. That works out to 250 songs, assuming each clocks in at about 4 megabytes, a typical size for an MP3 music file.
However, the network also shares games, movies and commercial software, Ashcroft said, and those take up much more space. A typical copied movie shared over the Internet takes from 700 megabytes to 4 gigabytes of storage, depending on the quality, which is usually less than that of a DVD.
The minimum sharing requirement would make the Underground Network an exclusive club. Even though all file-sharing networks rely on people offering files for download as well as downloading from other computers, not all networks require that people make their files available.
Under U.S. law, copyright is a civil matter, but becomes criminal — and thus the domain of the Department of Justice — if it is conducted for financial gain or involves the reproduction or distribution of more than $1,000 worth of materials within 180 days.
The Recording Industry Association of America separately announced Wednesday that it had sued another 744 people it accuses of file sharing, and refiled suits against 152 who did not settle previous ones.
The recording industry claims that U.S. companies lose $19 billion each year because of file sharing. A study earlier this year by Harvard and University of North Carolina researchers found that file sharing had no effect on 2002 music sales, though the IFPI, which represents the recording industry internationally, immediately disputed the results.
A nationwide phone survey conducted by the Pew Internet & American Life Project this January found that after the first RIAA lawsuits over file sharing, filed in September 2003, the percentage of online Americans using file-sharing software dropped to 14%, or about 18 million people, from 29%, about 35 million people.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation, which supports file-sharing systems because they can be used for legal information sharing, puts the number at 60 million.