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An Indiana man is among eight people facing federal charges of pirating movies, games and computer software over the Internet. Franklin Edward Littell of Martinsville, Ind., and seven others have been charged with criminal copyright infringement in a federal probe of Internet piracy groups that traffic in movies, games and software programs, the Justice Department said Thursday. Littell declined to comment on the charges against him. John C. Richter, acting assistant attorney general, said the charges “strike at the top of the copyright piracy supply chain, a technologically sophisticated, highly organized distribution network that provides most of the copyrighted software, movies, games and music illegally distributed over the Internet.” The FBI’s Charlotte, N.C., office helped lead a crackdown on Internet piracy that the Justice Department made public last month, after agents and investigators in 14 other nations arrested four people, seized hundreds of computers and shut down at least eight major online distribution servers for pirated works. An umbrella FBI operation, which also included probes run out of San Francisco and Chicago, was called Operation Site Down. The Justice Department also got help from authorities in Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Israel, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Hungary, Singapore and the United Kingdom. The government said those charged were leaders of “warez” groups, a kind of underground Internet co-op that is set up to trade in copyrighted materials. Warez (pronounced “wares”) groups are extraordinarily difficult to infiltrate because users talk only in encrypted chat rooms, their computer servers require passwords and many are located overseas, the FBI has said. Copyrighted works that warez groups are believed responsible for stealing and distributing include the films “Star War Episode III: Revenge of the Sith,” and “Mr. and Mrs. Smith,” and Autodesk’s Autocad 2006 and Adobe’s Photoshop software. Warez groups differ from popular file-swapping networks, where millions of files are shared without precautions to limit access. Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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