FBI seizes computer of UM student in raid

Search at fraternity house part of vast piracy sweep

April 24, 2004|By Justin Fenton | Justin Fenton,SUN STAFF

The FBI has seized the computer of a University of Maryland, College Park student, one of 200 computers confiscated in an international Internet piracy sweep.

Campus police confirmed yesterday that they were asked to assist the FBI in a raid at the Kappa Alpha fraternity house Thursday morning. Authorities took a computer and a Playstation 2 video game console belonging to Jeffrey Daniel Lerman of Hewlett, N.Y., witnesses said.

Lerman, a computer science major, was living in the house but was not a member of the fraternity.

No arrests were immediately announced, and records about the case are sealed, said Justice Department officials in Washington. Lerman could not be reached on campus yesterday and did not return a telephone message left at his home in New York.

University officials declined to comment. As recently as December, Provost William W. Destler sent an e-mail to students warning of the potential dangers of file-sharing.

The sweep was carried out in 27 states and 10 foreign countries, targeting covert "warez" groups that distribute music, movies and software before they are officially released, authorities said. There were no other seizures in Maryland.

Altogether more than 120 searches were conducted within 24 hours in an effort to dismantle organizations distributing more than $50 million worth of material, officials said.

The initiative, which began in February and is known as Operation Fastlink, has resulted in the seizure of more than 200 computers, including 30 that authorities say served as hubs containing thousands of copies of pirated material.

According to the FBI, the warez groups include "suppliers" who work in the music, gaming or movie industries; "crackers" who strip embedded source codes on materials and insert their trademarks; "Q&As" who ensure the material works; and "distributors" who transmit the downloaded products.

The crackdown has been described as a partnership between the FBI, the Recording Industry Association of America, the Motion Picture Association of America, the Software & Information Industry Association, and the Entertainment Software Association.

"Intellectual property theft is a global problem that hurts economies around the world," U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft said in announcing the effort. "To be effective, we must respond globally."

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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