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Feds raid North Bend home in Web piracy crackdown

The global crackdown on movie piracy hit close to home with an early morning raid by federal agents on a North Bend home.

Plainclothes officers with the United States Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement served a search warrant at aPickett Avenue home about 6:30 a.m. Wednesday, June 30, with assistance from King County Sheriff's Deputies.

The raid was part of "Operation In Our Sites," an international investigation by ICE and the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, involving simultaneous raids in North Carolina, New Jersey, New York and the Netherlands.

Seeking evidence of online movie and television show piracy, agents raided homes and seized the domain names of Web sites including TVShack.net, PlanetMoviez.com, FilesPump.com, ThePirateCity.org, NinjaVideo.net and NinjaThis.net.

"We're going after people who pirate intellectual property," said Pat Reilly, a public affairs specialist with ICE. "They steal intellectual property, in other words, first-run movies, and post them on their Web sites."

According to a news release, undercover investigators downloaded or viewed hundreds of newly released movies and television shows through suspect sites.

Investigators also seized assets from 15 bank, PayPal, investment and advertising accounts.

The case is ongoing, and no criminal charges have been filed.

"Many of the places that we were searching today were the hosting sites," Reilly said. These hosts might not have known that the servers they house were involved in illicit activity.

In such cases, agents announce their purpose and ask occupants to turn over anything related to the suspect sites.

"Our targets are the people who steal the content and presume to offer it to others," Reilly said.

Reilly said Web movie bootleggers typically sneak videocameras into movie showings. Digital content can also be stolen. Piracy costs U.S. industries billions of dollars and thousands of jobs annually, according to the National Intellectual Property Right Coordination Center, which is managed by ICE.

Visitors to the seized sites will be diverted away from them over the next 48 hours. On Wedesday afternoon, TVShack.net was still online, but NinjaThis.net would not load.

Reilly cautioned consumers about giving personal or financial information, such as credit cards, to sites that might be run by pirates.

"You might be treating the world soon," she said.

Cindy Walker, owner of North Bend Theatre, said she's never spent much thought on bootlegging in her community. For her, news of the raid came as a surprise.

Walker's independent theater occasionally gets notices from film distributors warning of the practice.

"We're watching out for people with video cameras," she said.

In four years of ownership, "I've never caught anybody," Walker added. "I don't think that in our market, it has a huge impact."

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