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."

Blackouts

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
    +11

    Comment number 208.

    The day after mass protests on the internet against SOPA this happens - its a clear message to the internet masses:

    With or without SOPA, the US Government will close down any site they want.

    Reading some of the comments in this article is quite concerning, the indoctrination seems to run so deep - how easy we sell our freedom when illogical arguments about 'copyright' rear their ugly head :(

  • rate this
    +17

    Comment number 207.

    This is not an argument of whether pirating is justifiable so let's not fall into that discussion.

    This is about whether or not the US has the right to shut down websites as and when it pleases. Whether they reside within its jurisdiction or not.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 206.

    I don't think many people are directly profiting from pirated material, maybe indirectly through ads on web pages. These people aren't selling the products for a lower price. The only people profiting of other peoples work are the distributors, which, thanks to the internet, are no longer needed.

  • rate this
    +10

    Comment number 205.

    If you want to avoid the corporate goons in the FBI then relocate your website to a Russian server. For safe and secure internet use start using a proxy server, VPN or TOR and the Feds will be unable to monitor what you're doing online.

    Freedom is but a few click away...

  • rate this
    +10

    Comment number 204.

    Everything that is held on Megaupload is probably backed up onto other servers ... This will make no difference whatsoever ... Just move things around ... You cannot control the internet ... It is communication ... Get used to it
    We need to move plans for Meshnet and other alternatives forward and then world government and big business will have no ability to control it
    Its just communication guys

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 203.

    "The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites"


    That does not mean the BBC cannot be black-holed, denying responsibility is no defence apparently.

    First they came for "them" and then they came for you.

  • rate this
    +12

    Comment number 202.

    I for one as a British expat living in Finland use these sites to keep up with programs (eg. Dr Who) which I would otherwise not be able to see. I would gladly pay a small reasonable fee to do this legally but such a service is unavailable. Until such a service is available I shall continue to be a 'pirate' and to copy things FOR MY OWN USE.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 201.

    Same old same old... Say how awful it is - get +ve ratings. Have the temerity to point out that this is theft and get -ve ratings.

    DTW 180,AP, yes I did but that whas when I was a child and knew no better but now I am an adult

  • rate this
    +44

    Comment number 200.

    Were it not for "pirated' material on the 'net I'd never buy CDs. Since I've used the internet my purchases of CDs have never been greater. If you think CD and DVD sales have slumped apply SOPA and PIPA and watch the sales decline to virtually nil. I'm certain legal downloads will not make up the difference.

  • rate this
    +14

    Comment number 199.

    I think a lot of people seem to be missing the point here...

    Megauploads are not the alleged ‘pirates’ their site has been closed down because some users have put up copyrighted material... exactly the same as what happens on YouTube, faceBook, and even Google!

    This is not, a pirates should be banned, argument, it’s a ‘should all web-sites be regulated by governments’ argument!

  • rate this
    +10

    Comment number 198.

    Piracy: It's like stealing someone's car, except their car is still there in the morning...

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 197.

    File sharing got me to buy and discover new music and therefore buying an album isn't such a gamble. Illegal downloading doesn't take away from the big corporation too it just means people are more able to consume more media that they would not have done otherwise. I'm sure it has a positive knock on effect with all the film product placement aswell.

  • rate this
    +16

    Comment number 196.

    @ 178.Hatchett wrote
    "This is a disgrace. US law now seems to apply to us all."

    Now do you understand what the "Blackout the Internet" campaign was about... and this was the old laws! SOPA and PIPA would give additional powers to COMPANIES not just the FBI.

    You might also want to follow what happens to Richard O'Dwyer .. a UK subject being extradited for 2nd hand Copyright Infringement

  • rate this
    +12

    Comment number 195.

    @47 UnderDefeat - Substitute Facebook for MegaUpload in your first paragraph and you've gone full circle but you won't see them going after the darling of US sites. For pre-2000, we copied 3.5" disks. Before that we copied from radio onto tape. We had two VCR's in order to copy rentals. Before that we copied reel to reel - don't make out this is some new thing and any generation was exempt.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 194.

    I, like most people here, am against piracy.

    What I am really against is a remote power trying to control the internet, have people arrested all over the world, bundled into a van blindfolded, put on a plane and jailed before they can say, 'what did I do?'

    Dramatic I know but it is coming, or is it already here? Down votes welcome. :)

  • rate this
    -5

    Comment number 193.

    The US is taking a hard line here but there is a big difference between the freedom to publish on the internet (as I am doing now) and the freedom to publish other people's ideas. We are told the future for developed economies is one based on IP but that will only be viable if those creating IP can protect it. Put it this way - you are free to buy what you want; you are not free to take it.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 192.

    Creating a site that allows other people to share copyrighted material - that's the kind of criminality that would make the Kray twins blush!

  • Comment number 191.

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

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 190.

    KTala

    They are adapting, by enforcing the law. You've heard of that I presume?

    It seems to be exactly this "adaptation" that so many people are whining about.

    And Andy, those soldiers are being prosecuted too.

    Hypocrites, hypocrites...

  • Comment number 189.

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

 

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