Megaupload file-sharing site shut down


Georgina Ball of Radio New Zealand on the Megaupload court appearance

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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.

In response, the hackers group Anonymous has targeted the FBI and US Department of Justice websites.

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 FBI website was intermittently unavailable on Thursday evening due to what officials said was being "treated as a malicious act".

The hackers' group Anonymous said it was carrying out the attacks.

The Motion Picture Association of America's website also suffered disruption.

Third-party sites

The charges included, 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 (£32m) 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."

Before it was shut down the site posted a statement saying the allegations against it were "grotesquely overblown".

"The fact is that the vast majority of Mega's internet traffic is legitimate, and we are here to stay," it added.

"If the content industry would like to take advantage of our popularity, we are happy to enter into a dialogue. We have some good ideas. Please get in touch."


The announcement came a day after thousands of websites took part in a "blackout" to protest against the Stop Online Piracy Act (Sopa) and the Protect Intellectual Property Act (Pipa).

The US Chamber of Commerce has defended the proposed laws saying that enforcement agencies "lack the tools" to effectively apply existing intellectual property laws to the digital world.

Industry watchers suggest this latest move may feed into the wider debate.

"Neither of the bills are close to being passed - they need further revision. But it appears that officials are able to use existing tools to go after a business alleged to be inducing piracy," said Gartner's media distribution expert Mike McGuire.

"It begs the question that if you can find and arrest people who are suspected to be involved in piracy using existing laws, then why introduce further regulations which are US-only and potentially damaging?"


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  • rate this

    Comment number 28.


    If someone came into your house and stole your most valuable possessions, or broke into the nearest HMV would you say, 'Oh it's OK, they are just trying before they buy'.

    Theft is theft, doesn't matter how you package it up.

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    "It begs the question that if you can find and arrest people who are suspected to be involved in piracy using existing laws, then why introduce further regulations which are US-only and potentially damaging?"

    This has to be the most sensible quote I have ever seen on the BBC news website.

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    Just curious what would happen if the FBI or whoever approaches a foreign government asking that they arrest these people and shutdown their website, and instead of complying the foreign government just says "no"?

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    If at your bring and buy sale, SiSkellon, it was thought that your DVD's were counterfeit, then you'd be arrested by Custom & Excise Office working along work your local Police force. That's why Car Boot sales are targeted by these same people. As to Megaupload, sorry to see it go as it was one of the more 'honest' of the file share sites. Honest to it's customers that is.

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    Absolutely impossible to enforce. You can't stop the signal.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    So someone watches a pirated DVD on a Sony player - do they ban Sony from selling DVD players?

    Thought not.

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    It seems that the USA is intent on ruling the world. How long will it be before I am arrested for driving on the wrong side of the road?

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    How come there is no mention of the Anonomous retaliation that included taking down the FBI, White House, MPAA and about 10 other websites?

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.


    Its not as black and white as that, firstly whether its is actually 'illegal' or not depends on where you live, the laws on this vary enormously.

    Secondly how does Megauplaod differ from any other file storage system, of which there are many..FTP sites, Windows Home Server Portal, shared work systems, etc

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    And what does shutting down Megaupload do? Nothing. The material will simply appear elsewhere. I presume Google will be shut next because you can find pirate material? Or ban the sale of computers, because you can download copyrighted material. Prohibiting like this simply does not work and never will do.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    Over $500million? How on earth do they justify that?

    As ever, they make the totally flawed, but convenient, assumption that one illegal download equals one lost sale. There are many reasons why people download illegal content, one of which is 'try before you buy'. While no one can argue that some revenue is lost, the numbers quoted are simply plucked out of the air and unverifiable.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    Take a lead from Vodafone, move to the Cayman Islands.

  • Comment number 16.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    "prosecutors have accused it"

    well let's shut down this overseas company and tell foreign countries to arrest people we accuse because American law trumps everything else!

    Welcome to the new world where the UAssOfA (bought and paid for by the MAFIAA, sorry MPAssA) thinks it rules the world and its laws apply cross-borders. Be afraid, be very very very afraid.

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    Is this the beginning of the end of the free internet?

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    The real issue is the people who make these laws have absolutely no technical knowledge. Some of the quotes coming out of the congress are astonishing.

    These people are using IE 6…

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    Hands up if we are now seeing the beginning of the "controlled internet" and your controlled world! do NOT let it happen people. do NOT be a sheep!

  • Comment number 11.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    Yep, definitely moves going on here by the US authorities to take control of the internet.

    From 1984,

    "'Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past."

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    2. - ANY website which has copyrighted material posted on it can be shut down. This technically includes facebook, twitter, youtube, tumblr, photobucket, reddit or any other website you care to mention. Instead of tackling the pirates themselves they're shutting down services and websites entirely - a bit like banning the sale of blank cds just because some copy albums to give to their friends.


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