The record industry's anti-piracy czar has given a thumbs up to the Department of Justice's Operation Digital Gridlock, the federal government's attempt to snare individuals who illegally distribute c

The record industry's anti-piracy czar has given a thumbs up to the Department of Justice's Operation Digital Gridlock, the federal government's attempt to snare individuals who illegally distribute copyrighted material on peer-to-peer networks.

Attorney General John Ashcroft revealed the initiative today (Aug. 25). Congress passed the "Pirate" law this year to allow the filing of criminal charges in piracy cases.

The announcement follows Federal Bureau of Investigation raids and seizures of computers, software and equipment in Texas, New York and Wisconsin as part of its investigation into the piracy of copyrighted movies, music and games over P2P networks.

A search was also conducted at Dallas-based Internet service provider Daily Planet, which was not a target for prosecution.

Brad Buckles, executive VP of anti-piracy for the Recording Industry Assn. of America, said in a statement that the raids are "another sign that the federal government places a high priority on enforcement of our intellectual property laws. The import of [Ashcroft's] announcement is unmistakable-those who use peer-to-peer technologies to deliberately and intentionally flout the law will be held accountable. The consequences may not be simply a civil lawsuit, but criminal prosecutions and jail time."

The warrants issued in the sweep sought evidence about the operators of five hubs of the "Underground Network," an organization of about 7,000 users who, as DOJ prosecutors charge, repeatedly violated federal copyright laws by swapping material online.

Arrests are expected following examination of the evidence, investigators say. The maximum penalty for copyright infringement under the new law is a fine of $250,000 and a five-year prison sentence.