Spanish police have closed 17 Web sites and arrested 15 people as part of an operation described as "unprecedented in Europe." According to police, the Web sites encouraged peer-to-peer trading in mus

Spanish police have closed 17 Web sites and arrested 15 people as part of an operation described as "unprecedented in Europe."

According to police, the Web sites encouraged peer-to-peer trading in music and movies by offering "illicit" access to P2P networks.

Among those blocked in the ongoing "Downloads in the Web" operation -- which began last October -- are indicedonkey.com, spanishare.com and emule24horas.com.

Police said the sites did not contain any songs or films but they offered links to P2P services such as eMule, eDonkey or Bittorrent. The sites offered "the necessary vehicle" to obtain "illicit copies," the police said in a note issued on the weekend.

The Web sites collectively brought in a total annual income close to €900,000 ($1.08 million), gathered largely from advertising banners, the police said.

The operation follows complaints by three rights collecting societies -- the authors' and publishers' society SGAE, the intellectual property federation FAP, and the intellectual rights association Agedi.

A SGAE spokesman said "the police operation is good news, and helps people to realize the need to preserve authors' rights, and that piracy is a crime".

However, Victor Domingo, president of Spanish Internet users' alliance Internauts Assn., said he was very worried about the operation, which he described as "sinister marketing."

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