Spain dragnet nabs pay TV pirates


MADRID -- Spanish police arrested 50 people in the country's largest-ever pay TV anti-piracy sweep, breaking up a ring that shaved millions of euros off European satellite platforms' earnings, authorities said Wednesday.

Police closed down 14 Web sites, seized eight local broadcast facilities and raided two apartment blocks, confiscating a range of computer equipment used to pirate and distribute the scrambled signal of a variety of European pay platforms, including Digital Plus, owned by Spanish film and television powerhouse Sogecable.

The operation took place in 15 locations in Spain and followed formal complaints filed by Digital Plus and the audiovisual producers' rights management body EGEDA.

The police found 14 Web sites offering programs and codes for pirating different signals. Additionally, the ring sold pirated descramblers over the Internet.

No one was available at Digital Plus for comment Wednesday.

Spain is a hotbed of piracy, prompting the government last year to announce new measures to aggressively pursue pirates in broad sweeps, including a special unit dedicated to tracking pirates.