LOS ANGELES -- US law enforcement agencies on Wednesday launched a crackdown on Internet-based movie piracy and counterfeiting to stem a growing trend of illegal downloading.
In the first day of the crackdown, dubbed "Operation In Our Sites," several websites were shut down, according to Homeland Security officials.
Targeted websites included tvshack.net, movies-links.tv, filespump.com, now-movies.com, planetmoviez.com and thepiratecity. org and zml.com.
Also closed were NinjaVideo.net and NinjaThis.net, which enabled users to stream or download popular television shows and movies.
Morton made the announcement on a soundstage at Disney Studios in Los Angeles.
"Every time you download, you hurt American workers in the film and television industry, not just fat cats in the corporate suites. The traffic to these sites is growing at an alarming rate," Morton said.
Movie piracy is not just a problem for the entertainment industry, but also "are undermining the US economy on a grand scale," Morton added.
Morton called the new coalition of private and public partners " a long-term effort to turn the corner on these thieves."
In the crackdown, assets from 15 banks, Paypal, investment and advertising accounts were seized, according to the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA).
The US Attorney for the Southern District of New York handled the seizures, the MPAA said.
No arrests have been made, but four search warrants were served at homes in several states, officials said.
"We are committed to working with law enforcement to get the illegal choices out of the marketplace," Morton said, "and instead focus on continuing to offer more innovative and flexible legal options to consumers to enjoy the movies and TV shows we all love."
Alan Bergman, president of the Walt Disney Studios, told attendees that movie piracy is no small matter to Hollywood.
"Enforcing these laws is critical and allows these companies to continue their investment" in the production of movies and television shows," Bergman said.
Mike Robinson, senior vice president of the MPAA, said that as broadband proliferates, so does piracy. He said already peer-to-peer traffic, much of it moving content illegally, already represents 39 percent of all the Internet traffic worldwide.
He said the problems are growing rapidly, with an increase of 45 percent in the last quarter of 2009 alone.
Also concerned are those in production, said Matthew Loeb, president of International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees.
"The stealing of digital content is not a victimless crime; it's also the theft of tens of thousands of American jobs."