After being down for several hours, yesterday the domain of private tracker BlackCats-Games was seized by the UK’s Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit.
The domain used to point to an IP address in Canada, but was later switched to a server known to be under the control of PIPCU, the UK’s leading anti-piracy force.
Following several hours of rumors, last evening sources close to the site began to confirm that the situation was serious. Reddit user Farow went public with specific details, noting that the owner of BlackCats-Games had been arrested and the site would be closing down.
A former site staff member added that there had in fact been two arrests and it was the site’s sysops that had been taken into custody.
While both are credible sources, there was no formal confirmation from PIPCU. That came a few moments ago and it’s pretty bad news for fans of the site and its operators.
“Officers from the City of London Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) have arrested two men in connection with an ongoing investigation into the illegal distribution of copyright protected video games,” the unit said in a statement.
Police say that the raids took place on Tuesday, with officers arresting two men aged 47 and 44 years at their homes in Birmingham, West Midlands and Blyth, Northumberland. Both were arrested on suspicion of copyright infringement and money laundering offenses.
Detectives say they also seized digital media and computer hardware.
PIPCU report that the investigation into the site was launched in cooperation with UK Interactive Entertainment (UKIE) and the Entertainment Software Association (ESA). A former staff member indicated that a PayPal account operated by the site in 2013 appears to have played an important role in the arrests.
Detective Sergeant Gary Brownfrom the City of London Police Intellectual Property Unit said that their goal was to disrupt the work of “content thieves.”
“With the ever-growing consumer appetite for gaming driving the threat of piracy to the industry, our action today is essential in disrupting criminal activity and the money which drives it,” Brownfrom said.
“Those who steal copyrighted content exploit the highly skilled work and jobs supported by the gaming industry. We are working hard to tackle digital intellectual property crime and we will continue to target our enforcement activity towards those identified as content thieves whatever scale they are operating at.”
UK Interactive Entertainment welcomed the arrests.
“UKIE applauds the action taken by PIPCU against the operators of the site. Sites like this are harmful to the hard work of game creators around the world. PIPCU’s actions confirm that these sites will not be tolerated, and are subject to criminal enforcement,” a spokesman said.
Stanley Pierre-Louis, general counsel for the Entertainment Software Association, thanked PIPCU for its work.
“ESA commends PIPCU for its commitment to taking action against sites that facilitate the illegal copying and distribution of incredibly advanced works of digital art. We are grateful for PIPCU’s leadership in this area and their support of creative industries.”
Both men have been released on police bail.