Internet Law

Feds Shut Down, Say Indicted Site Operators Are Part of Worldwide 'Mega Conspiracy'

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Updated: A day after federal lawmakers blinked in the face of an unusual Internet lobbying campaign by websites unhappy about proposed legislation intended to protect copyright holders, the U.S. Department of Justice has announced a shutdown of a major file-sharing website and the indictment of seven individuals and two companies alleged to be responsible for operating it.

The indictment says those who ran are part of “the Mega Conspiracy, a worldwide criminal organization whose members engaged in criminal copyright infringement and money laundering on a massive scale,” ABC News reports.

The feds estimate that the website and an associated shell company, Vestor Limited, made $175 million and cost copyright holders $500 million, the article says. (PC Magazine sets the damages much higher.) was launched in 2005 and at one point ranked the Internet’s 13th most-visited site.

The case is being pursued in the Eastern District of Virginia, where some leased servers related to the operation are located, the Associated Press reported.

Attorney Ira P. Rothken represents Megaupload. He told the New York Times (reg. req.) that he hasn’t yet seen the indictment, but “clearly we have due process concerns. This was done without a hearing.”

As detailed in another post, activists associated with the Anonymous collective have reportedly interrupted service at a number of websites in retaliation for the Megaupload case, including those for the DOJ and FBI and a number of major entertainment industry groups.

Related coverage: “Wikipedia Plans US Blackout to Protest Anti-Piracy Bill”

New York Times (reg. req.): “In Fight Over Piracy Bills, New Economy Rises Against Old”

Hillicon Valley (The HIll): “Piracy battle escalates in Senate”

Associated Press: “US prosecutors shut down one of world’s largest file-sharing sites, Megaupload”

Threat Level (Wired News): “Feds Shutter Megaupload, Arrest Executives”

Uptime (Ars Technica): “Before shutdown, Megaupload ate up more corporate bandwidth than Dropbox”

Last updated at 8:25 p.m. to include link to subsequent post and Hillicon Valley article.

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