Feds Shut Down Megaupload.com, ‘Anonymous’ Responds */?> Feds Shut Down Megaupload.com, ‘Anonymous’ Responds

Posted by · January 19, 2012 4:46 pm
SOPA Resistance Day!

Image by ~C4Chaos via Flickr

At the outset, it would seem that yesterday’s protests against SOPA and PIPA were a big success. After a 24-hour blackout, Wikipedia reported Thursday that over 162 million visitors to the site saw their message protesting the controversial anti-piracy legislation. Meanwhile, Google—who participated in the protest by blacking out its logo and posting a link to an anti-SOPA petition—reports that it was able to gather 4.5 million signatures.

As a result of such noteworthy success by two of the larger sites to take part in SOPA Resistance Day, a Pro Publica report notes that there has been a radical shift in Congress regarding both bills. After showing 80/30 lawmaker support for SOPA and PIPA as recently as yesterday, a report released Friday shows that 17 lawmakers have since recanted their support for the controversial legislation. Meanwhile, congressional resistance to both bills has more than quadrupled, with 122 lawmakers now publicly opposing SOPA and PIPA.

Unfortunately for Megaupload.com—one of the largest file-sharing sites in the world—the success of the protests did not place it in the good graces of the federal government.

In a statement made by the Department of Justice on Thursday, federal authorities announced that the popular file-sharing site had been shut down and that a number of its primary facilitators have been arrested on charges of copyright violations. The news of the action by the Justice Department comes as an even bigger surprise when one considers the fact that Megaupload.com is based in Hong Kong, making this copyright case one of the largest in U.S. history.

According to the federal indictment, Megaupload.com—who is said to account for nearly four percent of all Internet traffic with some 50 million daily visitors—pulls in more than $150 million in subscription fees and another $25 million in advertising.

In a message to its members before the site was taken down, Megaupload.com denounced the allegations as “grotesquely overblown”:

The fact is that the vast majority of Mega’s Internet traffic is legitimate, and we are here to stay. 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.

To further declare that it was above the fray, the website released a video last month, featuring popular recording stars, actors and other celebrities that seemed to endorse the site:

Responding to Megaupload.com’s continued claims of innocence, Federal authorities argued that, despite its appearance of compliance with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), Megaupload.com simply isn’t respecting the protections afforded to copyright holders:

They are willfully infringing copyrights themselves on these systems, have actual knowledge that the materials on their systems are infringing (or alternatively know facts or circumstances that would make infringing material apparent); receive a financial benefit directly attributable to copyright-infringing activity where the provider can control that activity; and have not removed, or disabled access to known copyright infringing material from servers they control.

To make matters worse, the indictment adds to the allegations of copyright infringement the even more damning accusations of hosting child pornography and terrorism propaganda videos.

All of this, suggests MPAA’s Chris Dodd (an outspoken advocate of SOPA and PIPA), goes to show “that law enforcement can take strong action to protect American intellectual property stolen through sites housed in the United States,” adding that “similar tools” would be necessary “to go after foreign-based websites that threaten the livelihoods of 2.2 million American” who make up the motion picture and television industry workforce.

However, Dodd’s summation isn’t quite convincing, considering the fact that Megaupload.com is based in Hong Kong. Furthermore, it demonstrates the ability of U.S. law enforcement to work cooperatively with other governments to bring alleged international copyright offenders to justice without the added latitude that would be granted by SOPA and PIPA. In other words, it would seem that the DMCA is doing what it’s supposed to do, and quite nicely I might add.

In fact, the lack of due process granted Megaupload.com before the Feds shut down its site suggests that any more latitude granted by such bills would be disastrous, especially considering the shamelessly embellished reports of revenue and job loss that the recording industry suggests is its motivation for increased anti-piracy legislation.

Unsurprisingly, the shutdown of Megaupload.com was quickly responded to by an ‘Anonymous’ strike on the Justice Department and Universal Music Group websites, causing them both to go offline Thursday afternoon.