Adding some swashbuckling to its tough talk on fighting piracy, the federal government on Wednesday seized several websites that had offered downloads of pirated movies such as "Toy Story 3" and "Iron Man 2" within hours of their release in theaters.
Federal authorities announced that they had seized domain names from nine websites engaged in the "criminal theft of American movies and television." The websites include TVShack.net, PlanetMoviez.com, ThePirateCity.org and Ninjavideo.net. Combined, the sites drew 6.7 million visitors a month, authorities said.
Officials also seized assets from 15 bank, investment and advertising accounts and executed residential search warrants in North Carolina, New York, New Jersey and Washington, according to a statement from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which coordinated its investigation with the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies.
The crackdown, which involved 100 agents working in 11 states and the Netherlands, was part of a renewed campaign dubbed Operation in Our Sites by federal authorities to curb Internet counterfeiting and piracy. The announcement comes a week after the Obama administration unveiled a detailed plan on how to tackle global piracy, including targeting illegal websites.
ICE chief John Morton, speaking at a Walt Disney Studios sound stage where he was joined by movie studio executives and union representatives, trumpeted the bust as the beginning of a "long-term effort to turn the tables on these thieves." The targeted websites, he added, are "run by people who have no respect for creativity and innovation."
The studios say they lose hundreds of millions annually to piracy.
Preet Bharara, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in a statement that the actions were necessary to protect the jobs and livelihoods of "ordinary working people" and warned others engaged in similar websites.
"If your business model is piracy, your story will not have a happy ending," Bharara said.