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By Shim Sun-ah
SEOUL, May 30 (Yonhap) -- Dozens of operators of an online peer-to-peer file sharing service and its heavy users have been booked for allegedly circulating illegal copies of movies, computer software and television programs, the culture ministry said Thursday.
Announcing the outcome of a five-month-long crackdown on 10 out of the nation's estimated 60 domestic torrent download sites, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism said police have booked 12 operators and 41 users without physical detention for illegally uploading more than 1,000 seed files, the ministry said.
Torrent is a protocol supporting the practice of peer-to-peer file sharing that is used to distribute large amounts of data over the Internet.
The system has recently emerged as one of the biggest threats to the nation's creative industries, allowing users to download new music, movies and various television programs, and even high-priced smartphone applications for free, and is quicker than other P2P and online storage services.
The crackdown, conducted jointly with the police and the Korea Copyright Commission, a subsidiary body of the ministry, was aimed at raising public awareness on the illegality of sharing various files on torrent sites without permission from their copyright holders, officials said.
"Torrent sites have been out of the reach of the authorities' probe as the complex method of sharing files makes it difficult for them to catch illegalities," the ministry said in a press release.
According to the copyright commission, the 10 torrent sites had 3.78 million subscribers and 2.38 million illegal files for sharing. The commission estimated 866.7 billion won (US$768 million) worth of copyrighted files was infringed upon as those files were downloaded 715 million times.
The ministry cautioned people not to download files on the system because they can be legally punished as a provider of illegal files as the system makes every user who downloads the files automatically upload them for other users.
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