Less than twenty four hours after a number of websites turned off their lights to protest the American Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), the FBI has shutdown digital storage locker MegaUpload and arrested its owner Kim “Kim DotCom” Schmitz on charges of piracy and conspiracy.
Mr. Schmitz and three others were arrested earlier today in Auckland by New Zealand federal police, “who executed provisional arrest warrants requested by the United States,” the Justice Department said in a statement.
Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), sponsor of the Protect IP Act (the brother of SOPA), applauded the crackdown but said new tools are needed to go after foreign sites. “Today’s action by the Department of Justice against the leaders of MegaUpload.com shows what law enforcement can do to protect American intellectual property that is stolen through domestic websites. Unfortunately, there are no tools in the arsenal to protect that same American intellectual property from theft by websites hosted and operated overseas,” Senator Leahy said in a statement.
According to a statement released by the FBI, seven people have be arrested and charged for, “engaging in a racketeering conspiracy, conspiring to commit copyright infringement, conspiring to commit money laundering, and two substantive counts of criminal copyright infringement.”
The grand jury indictment claims Megaupload generated $175 million in income for its through subscription fees and advertising whilst causing $500 million in damages to copyright holders.
“This action is among the largest criminal copyright cases ever brought by the United States,” the FBI’s statement claims. “[It] directly targets the misuse of a public content storage and distribution site to commit and facilitate intellectual property crime.”
Some of the services Mr. Schmitz apparently operates are MegaPorn, MegaVideo, MegaLive, and MegaPix.
Ira P. Rothken, a lawyer for MegaUpload, told the New York Times in a phone interview Thursday afternoon that he had not yet seen the indictment, but he added: “Clearly we have due process concerns. This was done without a hearing.”
Online hacktavist collective Anonymous was quick to take action after MegaUpload was shut down and the arrests were made. Using Twitter, the group announced the beginning of “Operation MegaUpload”, or #OPMegaUpload in Twitter parlance, and Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) assaults on Universal Music, the Motion Picture Association of America, as well as a variety of .gov websites.
One hour later, the @anonops Twitter account — the closest thing the collective has to an official voice — broadcasted a victory message: “Tango down! http://universalmusic.com & http://www.justice.gov// #Megaupload”
Anonymous also claimed to have targeted the FBI’s website, though as of early Thursday evening it was still accessible from Hardware Canucks’ Vancouver office.