A massive international investigation has led to the arrests of several individuals suspected of running an illegal movie piracy sting.

Led in coordination with law enforcement authorities in 18 countries and supported by Homeland Security and Europol, the investigation focused on a notorious movie piracy ring, more commonly known as the Sparks Group. The collective has allegedly facilitated the illegal distribution of a bevy of blockbuster titles.

Dozens of servers controlled by the Sparks Group were taken offline today around the world, including in North America, Europe, and Asia,” the Department of Justice said in a press release. The Sparks Group utilized these servers to illegally store and disseminate copyrighted content to members around the globe. 

Sparks Group members reproduced and disseminated hundreds of movies and television shows prior to their retail release date, including nearly every movie released by major production studios, causing millions of dollars in losses to the film and television industry,” said Homeland Security’s Peter Fitzhugh.

To get its hands on unreleased titles, members of the Sparks Group purportedly posed as DVD and Blu-Ray retailers in order to trick wholesale distributors into giving them movies ahead of release dates. While the pirates promised to honor the release dates, they ultimately stripped the content of any copyright protections, and distributed it on various streaming services and torrent sites.

According to Europol, law enforcement officers took down over 60 servers managed by the Sparks Group across a number of countries, including Canada, Czechia, Denmark, France, Germany, the UK, the Netherlands, South Korea, and more.

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