Operation Buccaneer is an ongoing international copyright piracy investigation and prosecution undertaken by federal law enforcement. On December 11, 2001, in a coordinated international effort, the U.S. Customs Service and the Department of Justice executed, or caused to be executed, more than 65 searches in the U.S. and five foreign countries. As of October, 2002, 16 defendants have been convicted in the U.S. of felony criminal copyright offenses, including conspiracy to commit those offenses, and 13 defendants have been sentenced to federal prison terms of up to 46 months. These are the longest sentences ever imposed in the United States for Internet copyright piracy. Additional guilty pleas and sentencings are scheduled in the coming months.
Copyright infringement, or piracy, as it is more commonly known, is the unauthorized reproduction and/or distribution of copyright protected works, such as computer software, movies, games and music. Pirated digital copies of copyrighted works distributed over the Internet are commonly known as "warez," and those who engage in this illegal conduct are said to be in the "warez scene." Operation Buccaneer is the first federal prosecution to successfully target the suppliers, crackers, and leadership of multiple top-level warez groups specializing in the supply (aka "release") of new pirated works to the warez scene. These groups included Drink Or Die, Razor1911, RiSCISO, MYTH, and POPZ. Additionally, the investigation successfully targeted members of several leading "courier" groups that specialize in the distribution and trading of pirated works over the Internet, including the groups RequestToSend (RTS), WeLoveWarez (WLW), and RiSC. Collectively, these warez groups were responsible for illegally reproducing and distributing over the Internet hundreds of millions of dollars worth of copyrighted works.
Copyright infringement is a federal crime punishable by up to five years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000. To learn more about Operation Buccaneer and other Federal piracy investigations, the illegal warez scene, and copyright piracy generally, click on the following links: