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Feds take over bootleg game, movie site

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- The U.S. Justice Department said Wednesday it had seized a rogue Web site that offered information on bootlegged video games and movies, as the owner faces sentencing for copyright violations.

The site remained available to many Internet users hours after the announcement, but Justice Department officials said they would gain complete control as Internet traffic computers were updated to reflect its new address.

Justice said it had taken over the Web site ( after its owner pleaded guilty to selling computer chips that would enable users to play bootleg video games on Microsoft Corp. Xbox consoles, a violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

Message boards offer tips

ISO News, which claimed up to 140,000 hits each day, does not contain illegal copies of video games, software and movies, but instead features message boards where Internet users can trade tips about such "warez."

David Rocci, 22, agreed to surrender the site after pleading guilty last December to importing 450 Enigmah Mod Chips from Britain and selling them for between $45 and $60 apiece, Justice said.

start quoteIt's a far-reaching and radical approach in light of previous Supreme Court decisions that emphasized the importance of the First Amendment on the Internet.end quote
-- David Sobel, Electronic Privacy Information Center

Rocci operated the site as a way to attract an audience that would be interested in buying his code-cracking chips, Justice officials said.

Some visitors to the site Wednesday found a warning against copyright infringement and a link to the Justice Department's computer-crime division, but others were able to reach a version of the original site. A computer network engineer explained that the domain name pointed to at least two numerical Internet addresses, only one of which was controlled by the government.

Lag time in switch-over

Users would encounter differing versions of the Web site depending on which address was stored by their "name servers," which match domain names to numerical addresses, the engineer said. Two Justice Department attorneys said Internet users would eventually be steered to the government's address as name servers across the Internet are updated over the next several hours.

"There is going to be some lag time between the domain-name switch-over," one attorney said. "But the domain name now belongs to the federal government."

Rocci faces a prison sentence of up to five years and fines up to $500,000 at his sentencing on March 7, the government said. The Customs Service and the Justice Department launched a wide-ranging investigation into Internet piracy in 2001, resulting in 17 felony convictions and sentences that range from probation to nearly 4 years in prison.

Copyright 2003 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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