Five US residents face criminal copyright charges for their alleged participation in the online "warez" file-trading community, the US DoJ (Department of Justice) announced yesterday.

The charges come out of an ongoing DoJ crackdown against international online piracy groups that distribute copyrighted movies, software, games and music on the internet. The five defendants are alleged to be leading members of the "warez scene", groups of internet users who illegally distribute copyrighted materials online.

Warez groups, using servers worldwide, are often the first distributors of copyrighted works online, before the works filter down to peer-to-peer and other public networks, the DoJ said.

Kevin Fuchs, 25, of West Amherst, New York, and Cuong Quoc Trang, 35, of Parker, Colorado, were charged in an indictment with conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement, violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and copyright infringement, the DoJ said.

Matthew Alderman, 24, of Ashland, Oregon, was charged with criminal copyright infringement, and David Morvant, 35, of Thibodaux, Louisiana, and Michael Hays, 51, of Delafield, Wisconsin, were charged with conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement.

The charges are part of Operations FastLink and Site Down, the two largest international law-enforcement efforts targeted at online distribution of copyrighted material, the DoJ said. The operations have resulted in more than 200 search warrants executed in 16 countries, hundreds of computers being confiscated and more than $100m (about £56m) worth of copyrighted software, games, movies and music removed from download sites.

Countries participating in the US-led operations included France, Canada, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Portugal, Hungary, Israel, Spain, Australia, Singapore, Brazil, Belgium and Germany.

The charges are being prosecuted by the US Attorney's Office for the Western District of North Carolina. The office charged eight other alleged warez leaders with copyright-related crimes in July.

Operation FastLink has resulted in 28 felony convictions so far. In Operation Site Down, 53 people have been charged and 23 convicted of felony offenses.