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Megaupload shockwaves resound

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Megaupload shockwaves resound


The founder of file-sharing website Megaupload remains in custody in New Zealand, although the German-born former hacker known as Kim Dotcom denies charges of Internet piracy and money laundering.

The US authorities say the accused made his colossal fortune by copying and distributing music, movies and other copyrighted content without authorisation. The FBI requested a raid on the 38-year-old’s Auckland mansion on Friday.

Under the media glare, the judge has said the bail application was too complicated for an immediate ruling. Megaupload’s lawyer has said the company simply offered online storage.

As news of Dotcom’s arrest spread, hackers attacked. The site of the French president was targeted after he praised the Megaupload shutdown. Official sites in Poland were hit, to protest anti-piracy legislation. Others included the FBI and US Justice Department.

Hackers calling themselves the Polish Underground also posted a joke portrayal of a communist-era crackdown hate figure.

In Washington, lawmakers stopped anti-piracy legislation on Friday. A critical vote was postponed. The movie and music industries want Congress to crack down on Internet piracy and content theft.

Demonstrators have said the US Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect IP Act are the wrong way to go.

Protester Michael Gray said: “There’s a fundamental lack of understanding by the lawmakers for how the Internet works, and some idea that the answer is the regulate speech, that the answer is to make everybody suddenly responsible for what other people are saying. And I think it’s going to stifle companies from the kind of expression that drives the Internet.”

Service sites such as Wikipedia have applied their weight in the debate as well, complaining that current drafts of the legislation would lead to censorship.

Many fear that social media sites could be shut down even for users who are not illegally sharing content. Positions are hardening.

On one side are industries losing huge revenue and pushing for piracy repression. On another are those who fear that what will end up suffering most is free expression.

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