FBI agents claim to have smashed a global piracy ring followingthe arrest of 13 members of an organised network in the New York area.

The individuals were part of an international ring allegedlyresponsible for one-half of all camcorded copies of films available on theblack market and on the internet in the US, and one-quarter of all camcordedcopies of counterfeit films worldwide.

The arrests were the culmination of a three-year investigationconducted by the FBI with the assistance of the US Attorney's Office for theSouthern District of New York.

Agents learned that certain individuals named in the criminalcomplaint filed in Manhattan Federal Court on Jun 27 were also distributingmaster copies internationally via the internet, through distribution hubslocated in Pakistan, Singapore, Hong Kong and Malaysia.

The defendants were due tobe arraigned in Manhattan on Jun 28. Charges of conspiracy, copyrightinfringement and trafficking in counterfeit labels, documents and packagingeach carry a maximum sentence of five years in prison.

"Today's arrests are a substantial victory in the fight tocurb movie theft on the Internet and on the streets," MPAA chief DanGlickman said. "These camcorders were an organised group of peopleresponsible for fuelling an underground economy."

Camcorders are at the top of the piracy pyramid and according tolaw enforcement officers supply 90% of newly released pictures that end up onthe internet and on the streets.

According to officialfigures piracy cost the worldwide motion picture industry $18.2bn in lostpotential revenues in 2005. The major US studios lost $6.1bn, $4.8m of whichresulted from piracy in other countries. Approximately $3.8bn was lost tohard-goods piracy including bootlegging and illegal copying, and $2.3bn waslost to internet piracy.