U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that it has shut down Megaupload, the one-click hosting online service, and charged its members for five counts of copyright infringement and conspiracy, by trafficking and hosting pirated image and video content. Four out of seven of the site’s owners and operators have been arrested.
According to the indictment, the "members of the Mega Conspiracy are aware of the way that their sites are actually used by others; have themselves used the systems to upload, as well as reproduce and distribute, infringing copies of copyrighted content; and are aware that they have financially benefited directly from the infringement of copyrighted works that they are in a position to control."
The indictment adds that Megaupload and its subsidiaries (the websites Megavideo.com, Megalive.com, Megapix.com, Megabox.com, CUM.com, and services Megaclick, Megafund, Megakey and Megapay) generated roughly $175 million in online advertising annually, and dealt with an estimated $500 million in copyright violation damages since Megaupload's inception in 2005. This makes it one of the biggest criminal copyright cases so far.
The Megaupload owners each face a maximum penalty totalling up to more than 50 years across the charges, which are conspiracy to commit racketeering, conspiracy to commit copyright infringement, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and five years in prison for each substantive charge of criminal copyright infringement.
In the meanwhile, hacktivist group, Anonymous, which has historically been opposed to the MPAA and RIAA’s demands, has retaliated to the closure of Megaupload, by shutting down the website of the DOJ, FBI, Universal Music Group, MPAA, RIAA, and U.S. Copyright office on Thursday. The group calls it the single biggest strike in its history.
The timing of the indictment is conspicuous in its proximity to the PIPA and SOPA anti online piracy bills, which will be taken up by the U.S. Congress shortly, just maybe serving as a sign of things to come, or, of the last rattle before the storm.