updated 9/20/2004 4:11:04 PM ET 2004-09-20T20:11:04

German police have broken up an Internet piracy operation they say had peddled millions of dollars worth of bootleg films, computer games, music and software through a Web site.

The site had charged at least 45,000 subscribers to download pirated files and brought in more than $1.2 million in profits this year, authorities said. The site, since closed by police, was run from Germany, though it was registered in the British Virgin Islands and used servers located in the Netherlands and the Czech Republic.

After a yearlong investigation, police arrested four men last week. They are being investigated and could be charged with copyright violation and organized crime activity, lead prosecutor Hans-Joachim Petri said. The suspects, whose names were not released, could face up to five years in prison if convicted.

Police said they didn’t know exactly how much money the site took in, but the German Federation Against Copyright Theft estimated the pirated material would have been worth at least $12.2 million in revenues to the legitimate rights holders.

The suspects included two brothers who operated the Web site, ages 20 and 30, a 46-year-old lawyer from Munich and a 19-year-old technician. The attorney has previously defended suspects of copyright violations, particularly Internet pirates, according to the Motion Picture Association.

The MPA said the site charged $15 for a file or $170 monthly for the pirated materials.

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