Federal prosecutors in Virginia have shut down one of the world’s largest file-sharing sites, Megaupload.com, and charged its founder and others with violating piracy laws.
The indictment accuses the company of costing copyright holders more than $500 million in lost revenue from pirated films and other content. The indictment was unsealed Thursday, one day after websites shut down in protest of two congressional proposals intended to thwart the online piracy of copyrighted movies and TV programs.
Megaupload.com has claimed it is diligent in responding to complaints about pirated material.
The indictment says that at one point, Megaupload was the 13th most popular website in the world. sfgate.com
The Electronic Frontier Foundation, which defends free speech and digital rights online, said in a statement that, “This kind of application of international criminal procedures to Internet policy issues sets a terrifying precedent. If the United States can seize a Dutch citizen in New Zealand over a copyright claim, what is next?”
In what the federal authorities on Thursday called one of the largest criminal copyright cases ever brought, the Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation seized the Web site Megaupload and charged seven people connected with it of running an international enterprise based on Internet piracy.
Four of the seven people, including the site’s founder, Kim Dotcom (born Kim Schmitz), have been arrested in New Zealand, the authorities said; the three others remain at large. Each of the seven people – who the indictment said were members of a criminal group it called “Mega Conspiracy” – is charged with five counts of copyright infringement and conspiracy. The seven each face a maximum of 55 years in prison.
Coming just a day after civil protests in the United States over proposed antipiracy bills, the arrests were greeted almost immediately with digital Molotov cocktails. The hacker collective that calls itself Anonymous attacked the Web sites of the Justice Department and several major entertainment companies and trade groups in retaliation for Megaupload’s seizure. The Justice Department’s site and several others remained inaccessible for much of Thursday afternoon. nytimes.com
As part of the crackdown, more than 20 search warrants were executed in the United States and in eight other countries. About $50 million in assets were also seized, as well as a number of servers and 18 domain names that formed Megaupload’s network of file-sharing sites. mediabistro.com
On Wednesday, Google and Wikipedia joined dozens of sites in political theatrics by blacking out some content and explaining their arguments against the laws. nytimes.com
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