Brazil: Operation 404 Phase 5 blocks another 250 sites and apps, makes arrests

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More arrests and site seizures were the result of a fifth phase of Brazil’s ongoing initiative against piracy, Operation 404 which was launched on March 14 and coordinated by the country’s Ministry of Justice and Public Security.  The name references the message that’s presented to Web users if a site or page is ‘not found,’ which has been the successful aim of the initiative.  In fact, part of the operation is to block the discoverability of piracy sites and apps through Internet search engines and social media.

In addition to blocking 199 Web sites and 63 illegal streaming apps carrying series television, games, music and six channels of social messaging, at least 11 people were arrested in four states. 32 search and seizure warrants were issued for computers and equipment.  According to Agencia Brasil, the government-run national news agency, 73 of the sites and apps were based in Peru, and a further 25 were in the UK.

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According to estimates by Brazil’s Cyber Operations Laboratory of the Ministry of Justice and Public Security, between 30 million and 40 million Brazilians access illegal sources, resulting in the loss of more than R$15 billion (Brazilian Reals) per year, “and approximately R$ 2 billion per year, in taxes are no longer collected.”

According to Agencia Brasil, “over the five phases of Operation 404, 1,974 sites were blocked, 783 applications were unavailable, 128 search warrants were fulfilled, in 20 Brazilian states and in the United States, Peru and the United Kingdom.”

International collaboration

In addition to coordination by Brazil’s National Secretariat of Public Security (SENASP) integrated the actions of the civil police of eight states, in the fight against online piracy: Pernambuco, São Paulo, Paraná, Minas Gerais, Rio Grande do Sul, Bahia, Ceará and Rio de Janeiro.  Brazil’s national telecommunication agency (ANATEL), the Brazil film industry’s regulatory agency (ANCINE).

International agencies included officials of Peru’s Instituto Nacional de Defensa de la Competencia y de la Protección de la Propiedad Intelectual (INDECOPI), and the United Kingdom, with the Metropolitan Police Service of London, Intellectual Property Office (IPO) and Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) also participated.

Additional participating organizations were the MPA’s Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE) and the Entertainment Software Association (US).

Further reading

Operation 404.5 arrests 11 people and blocks more than 200 illegal websites and applications.  News release. March 14, 2023. Ministry of Justice and Public Safety, Brazil.

Anti-piracy operation blocks about 270 websites and applications. Article. March 14, 2023. Agencia Brasil

Operation against digital piracy arrests 11 people and blocks about 250 illegal streaming platforms. Article. March 14, 2023. Globo G1.

Operation takes down more than 250 pirated streaming sites in Brazil. Article. March 14, 2023. Olhar Digital

ACE supports global law enforcement partners in the completion of fifth wave of large anti-piracy sweeps in Brazil. News release. March 15, 2023. Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE).

Ongoing initiative

Operation 404 announces its efforts in phases. Phase 1 in 2019 blocked 210 sites that had servers in Canada, France, Germany and the United States with the help of ACE, 2020’s Phase 2 netted 250 more with help from the US Dept of Homeland Security, London police and the industry group Alianza, Phase 3 in 2021 took out another 334 sites and 94 apps – with one site alone getting 17 million hits per month.

History of Operation 404. Source: Ministry of Justice and Public Security, Brazil Federal Government

In 2022, Phase 4 blocked 3 sites in the UK and six more in the US, with the help of ACE and Nagra.  In February 2023, a spin-off initiative between authorities of Brazil, Japan and others, Operation Animes, took down a network of six anime sites.

Why it matters

Operation 404 has been underway as a continuing initiative since 2019, which is one of the main reasons for its success.  The experience gained over the years has been instrumental in making the operation more effective and more efficient.  Organizations have had time to put communciations processes and escalation procedures in place and know when and how to execute.

“The coordinated efforts of the judiciary police forces and the intellectual property industry associations have resulted in a tremendously successful outcome for all five waves of Operation 404,” said Alesandro Gonçalves Barreto, Chief of the Brazilian Ministry of Justice, National Secretariat for Public Safety’s Cyber Lab Task Force. “The use of best practices and the consistent flow of information have contributed to the success of the partnership. It’s critical that we continue existing partnerships and look to build new ones in our united fight to mitigate piracy and reduce incidences of copyright infringement.”

It also has helped that the participants in Operation 404 have communicated their results to the industry, regulators and to the general public; creating awareness that piracy is a tangible ongoing threat and anti-piracy defenses must never be lowered.

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