13 members arrested the New York area.

Special agents from the FBI arrested today (June 28) 13 members of an international ring of movie thieves in the New York area, the Motion Picture Assn. of America reported. This ring is allegedly responsible for half of all camcorded copies of films available on the black market and on the Internet in the United States, and 25% of all camcord copies of counterfeit movies worldwide, the trade group said.

The arrests were the culmination of a three-year investigation conducted by the FBI with the assistance of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.

“Today's arrests are a substantial victory in the fight to curb movie theft on the Internet and on the streets," said Dan Glickman, chairman/CEO of the MPAA. “We applaud the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s office for their energy and diligence in this case. These camcorders were an organized group of people responsible for fueling an underground economy.”

Camcorders are at the top of the piracy pyramid supplying 90% of newly-released movies that end up on the Internet and on the streets, according to the MPAA. These recordings are duplicated and sold on the black market and loaded onto the Internet triggering an avalanche of millions of illegal downloads. Because of these camcorders, newly released films appear in street markets around the world and on the Internet just days after their domestic theatrical release.

The FBI investigation further determined that certain camcorders and distributors named in the criminal complaint filed yesterday in Manhattan federal court were also distributing master copies internationally, via the Internet. The distribution hubs were located overseas, including such locations as Pakistan, Singapore, Hong Kong and Malaysia. The counterfeit motion pictures were uploaded to the Internet, either from a DVD or directly from the actual digital video tape contained in the camcorders that were used to film the copyrighted motion pictures in the movie theatres.

Charges of conspiracy, copyright infringement and trafficking in counterfeit labels, documents and packaging each carry a maximum sentence of five years in prison. All defendants will be arraigned today.