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Science

Belgian authorities target 12 European countries in online piracy raids

Brussels officials arrested five people in connection with raids conducted against four Internet piracy rings. The groups caused up to 6 billion euros in lost revenue, prosecutors have said.

Web servers

Dozens of servers were seized in 12 European countries

Following police raids that led to the seizure of computer servers in 12 European countries on Tuesday, Belgian authorities provided details on Wednesday about the scope, economic impact, and type of content they uncovered after breaking up four Internet piracy rings.

"[These are groups] that were putting pirated content online - films and television series - in Dutch, or with Dutch subtitles," Jean-Marc Meilleur, a spokesperson for the Brussels prosecutor's office also told Deutsche Welle.

Euro notes under a computer mouse

The groups are accused of causing up to 30 million euros in revenue losses

The two-year investigation targeted the "four groups most responsible for making available 80 percent of Dutch language television and film production or foreign language media sub-titled in Dutch," according to a statement also released Wednesday by the prosecutor's office.

Meilleur said 48 servers were seized in a dozen countries across Europe, including Germany, France, Norway, Croatia, Hungary, Italy and Sweden. Ten people the prosecutor's statement identified as the leaders of the four groups were also questioned in Belgium, Norway, Poland and Sweden. Five of the 10 were arrested and charged with participating in a criminal organization and copyright infringement.

"We estimate that this group has caused 30 million euros worth of losses in Belgium, and up to 6 billion euros globally," he said.

Meilleur also pointed out the vast quantity of data and servers seized. He noted in particular that one server in Poland contained 90 hard drives of one to two terabytes each.

Swedish assistance

In conjunction with the other raids, seven locations in Sweden were targeted on Tuesday.

A network cable

Authorities traced the Internet connections to their sources

Paul Pinter, the national coordinator of intellectual property crime in Sweden, told Deutsche Welle that Belgian authorities had originally asked for Swedish assistance after determining that seven IP addresses could be traced back to Sweden.

The Swedish prosecutor's office also released a statement linking this investigation to illegal file sharing within a larger group known as both "The Warez Scene" and "The Scene."

Despite the raids, there have been no criminal charges filed in Sweden, Pinter said, adding that authorities questioned and released seven suspects.

He said the confiscated servers are being held in Sweden but may be sent to Brussels for further analysis.

Pirate Party criticizes raids

The Pirate Party in Sweden quickly spoke out against the raids in their country, posting a comment on its blog yesterday. According to its website, the party stands for reform of copyright law, abolishing the patent system and the right to privacy.

"Filesharing is not a very serious crime and in our view it should not even be a crime," Anna Troberg, the Swedish Pirate Party's deputy party leader, told Deutsche Welle. "Still [the authorities] choose to put a lot of time, energy and money into chasing filesharers."

She pointed out that Swedish law makes it difficult for the accused to retrieve their computers - even if the offending material comprised only a small portion of the data on the machines.

Author: Cyrus Farivar

Editor: Sean Sinico

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