Three men have been charged with leaking movies for nearly a decade

Their piracy group may have cost film studios tens of millions of dollars.

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In an attempt to take down the elite global piracy ring Sparks Group, US officials have charged three men with copyright infringement. Two of those men have been arrested, and law agencies in 18 other countries helped shut down servers used by the piracy group. It’s estimated that the Sparks Group cost film production studios tens of millions of dollars.

According to the Department of Justice, since 2011, the three men arrested and other members of the Sparks Group fraudulently obtained copyrighted DVDs and Blu-Ray discs from wholesale distributors. Allegedly, they then cracked the discs and disseminated the film and TV content via the internet prior to the retail release dates.

“The group allegedly circumvented copyright protections on nearly every movie released by major production studios, as well as television shows, and distributed them by way of a worldwide network of servers,” Audrey Strauss, the acting US attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in a statement.

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Shortly before the indictments were unsealed, others involved in the piracy scene seemed to hear of the arrests. Several piracy sites and their members disappeared or went into hiding, TorrentFreak reported

“The word was that several major movie release groups – SPARKS, GECKOS and DRONES – had been targeted in a series of raids and as a result, people were running for cover,” TorrentFreak reporter Andy Maxwell wrote.

This crackdown on copyright infringement comes less than one year after two men plead guilty to operating two of the largest pirate streaming sites in the US. VidAngel, a “movie sanitizing” service, was also recently ordered to pay $62 million in a piracy suit.

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Three men have been charged with leaking movies for nearly a decade