One side calls it stealing – users call it sharing. Content-sharing website Megaupload.com is not fighting its battles alone.
Within minutes of its shutdown by the US authorities on Thursday, over questions of copyright infringement, hackers had jammed the websites of the FBI, the Justice Department and Universal Music. The online collective known as Anonymous said they did it, and will strike again.
Carrying out a request from the Americans, police in New Zealand arrested four company executives of Megaupload. One was German founder Kim Schmitz, aka Kim Dotcom.
Detective inspector Grant Wormald of the New Zealand Police said: “They have been arrested on warrants relating to breach of copyright offences in the United States, money laundering and racketeering.”
The Dotcom mansion in Auckland was raided. Several collector cars were seized. Some seven million euros in bank accounts was frozen.
In the US, 50 million dollars was seized, and warrants are out for other people linked to the site.
The Mega Conspiracy group was accused of engaging in operations that took more than $500 million away from copyright holders and generated over $175 million in proceeds from subscriptions and advertising, according to the indictment unsealed on Thursday.
The indictment said: “In exchange for payment, the Mega Conspiracy provides fast reproduction and distribution of infringing copies of copyrighted works from its servers located around the world.”
Before the swoop, Megaupload was one of the most frequently visited websites on the Internet. Others are now handling its traffic.
Debate over online piracy is raging in the US, with tougher legislation planned, in response to urging from the movie and music industries.
Opponents of the two packages, known as PIPA and SOPA, have complained that they are a first step toward censorship.
The maximum penalties for racketeering and money laundering are 20 years, and five years for each count of copyright infringement.