The US Department of Justice yesterday launched major international action against Internet software pirates with a 120 raids in ten countries.

The DOJ is working with police in ten countries, targeting so-called "warez" groups that distribute software, music, movies and video games illegally.

"Intellectual property theft is a global problem that hurts economies around the world. To be effective, we must respond globally," US Attorney General John Ashcroft said.

"In the past 24 hours, working closely with our foreign law enforcement counterparts, we have moved aggressively to strike at the very core of the international online piracy world."

Dubbed 'Operation Fastlink' the action has seen 200 computers and 30 servers seized internationally. These held around $50 million in pirated goods, the DOJ said.

Also part of the operation, the FBI yesterday served six search warrants in San Diego, Associated Press reports.

Warez operators in Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Israel, the Netherlands, Singapore, Sweden, the UK and Northern Ireland were hit.

Warez groups being hit include: Fairlight, Kalisto, Echelon, Class and Project X, and a music piracy group called APC.

The Business Software Alliance, the Entertainment Software Association, the Motion Picture Association of America and the Recording Industry Association of America are all involved in this major operation.

"The amount of international coordination and cooperation in this effort is unprecedented and will send a clear and unmistakable message to those individuals and organizations dedicated to piracy that they will no longer be protected by geographic boundaries," said Ashcroft.

"We will pursue these thieves regardless of their location."