Federal agents shut down a Web site that they said allowed people to download the new "Star Wars" movie even before it was shown in theaters.
The authorities alleged that the Elite Torrents site was engaging in high-tech piracy by letting people download copies of movies and other copyright material for free.
The action was the first criminal enforcement against individuals who are using cutting-edge BitTorrent software to obtain pirated content online, Justice and Homeland Security Department officials said.
Elite Torrents had more than 133,000 members and offered 17,800 movies and software programs in the past four months, officials said. Among those titles was "Star Wars: Episode III--Revenge of the Sith," which was available through Elite Torrents six hours before its first showing in theaters, the officials said.
The movie was downloaded more than 10,000 times in the first 24 hours.
Authorities served search warrants in 10 cities against computer users accused of being the first to offer copyright materials to other BitTorrent users on the Web site, Homeland Security's Customs and Immigration Enforcement agency said. The cities are: Austin, Texas; Erie, Pa.; Philadelphia; Wise, Va.; Clintonwood, Va.; Germantown, Wis.; Chicago; Berea, Ohio; Anthem, Ariz.; and Leavenworth, Kan.