January 19, 2012
Megaupload, one of the internet’s largest file-sharing sites, has been shut down by officials in the US. The site’s founders have been charged with violating piracy laws. Federal prosecutors have accused it of costing copyright holders more than $500m (£320m) in lost revenue. The firm says it was diligent in responding to complaints about pirated material. The news came a day after anti-piracy law protests, but investigators said they were ordered two weeks ago. The US Justice Department said that Megaupload’s two co-founders Kim Dotcom, formerly known as Kim Schmitz, and Mathias Ortmann were arrested in Auckland, New Zealand along with two other employees of the business at the request of US officials. It added that three other defendants were still at large.
“This action is among the largest criminal copyright cases ever brought by the United States and directly targets the misuse of a public content storage and distribution site to commit and facilitate intellectual property crime,” said a statement posted on its website. The charges included copyright infringement, conspiracies to commit racketeering, copyright infringement and money laundering. A federal court in Virginia ordered that 18 domain names associated with the Hong Kong-based firm be seized. The Justice Department said that more than 20 search warrants had been executed in nine countries, and that approximately $50m in assets had been seized.
It claimed that the accused had pursued a business model designed to promote the uploading of copyrighted works. “The conspirators allegedly paid users whom they specifically knew uploaded infringing content and publicised their links to users throughout the world,” a statement said. “By actively supporting the use of third-party linking sites to publicise infringing content, the conspirators did not need to publicise such content on the Megaupload site. “Instead, the indictment alleges that the conspirators manipulated the perception of content available on their servers by not providing a public search function on the Megaupload site and by not including popular infringing content on the publicly available lists of top content downloaded by its users.”
Hacktivists with the collective Anonymous are waging an attack on the website for the White House after successfully breaking the sites for the FBI, Department of Justice, Universal Music Group, RIAA and Motion Picture Association of America. In response to today’s federal raid on the file sharing service Megaupload, hackers with the online collective Anonymous have broken the websites for the FBI, Department of Justice, Universal Music Group, RIAA, Motion Picture Association of America and Warner Music Group. “It was in retaliation for Megaupload, as was the concurrent attack on Justice.org,” Anonymous operative Barrett Brown tells RT on Thursday afternoon.
Only hours before the DoJ and Universal sites went down, news broke that Megaupload, a massive file sharing site with a reported 50 million daily users, was taken down by federal agents. Four people linked to Megaupload were arrested in New Zealand and an international crackdown led agents to serving at least 20 search warrants across the globe. The latest of sites to fall is FBI.gov, which finally broke at around 7:40 pm EST Thursday evening. Less than an hour after the DoJ and Universal sites came down, the website for the RIAA, or Recording Industry Association of America, went offline as well. Shortly before 6 p.m EST, the government’s Copyright.gov site went down as well. Thirty minutes later came the site for BMI, or Broadcast Music, Inc, the licensing organization that represents some of the biggest names in music. Also on Thursday, MPAA.org returned an error as Anonymous hacktivists managed to bring down the website for the Motion Picture Association of America. The group, headed by former senator Chris Dodd, is an adamant supporter of both PIPA and SOPA legislation.
Universal Music Group, or UMG, is the largest record company in the United States and under its umbrella are the labels Interscope-Geffen-A&M, the Island Def Jam Motown Music Group and Mercury Records. Brown adds that “more is coming” and Anonymous-aligned hacktivists are pursuing a joint effort with others to “damage campaign raising abilities of remaining Democrats who support SOPA.” Although many members of Congress have just this week changed their stance on the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA, the raid on Megaupload Thursday proved that the feds don’t need SOPA or its sister legislation, PIPA, in order to pose a blow to the Web. Brown adds that operatives involved in the project will use an “experimental campaign” and search engine optimization techniques “whereby to forever saddle some of these congressmen with their record on this issue.”