The file sharing website Megaupload and media sharing website Megavideo was shut down Jan. 19 by the FBI. These two websites were shut down for violation of copyright protection. With this shutdown came a series of arrests. In total, seven people were arrested for the connection of what is being called a criminal organization by authorities.
Just to explain how big of an impact this shutdown will have on the Internet community at large, the website had an average of 50 million unique hits a day and the website boasted 150 million users. This made Megaupload and Megavideo the 15th most visited website on the Internet. Hundreds of thousands of broken links littered a number of websites who use Megaupload and Megavideo to host their content on the servers of the Hong Kong-based company.
Federal Agencies were able to act on Megaupload because many of their servers were located in Alexandria, Va. This put their content under US jurisdiction. Along with seizing the servers in Alexandria, a federal court has ordered the shutdown of 18 different domains associated with the company.
The main charge lobbied against Megaupload and Megavideo is that the websites encouraged users to upload copyrighted content. The federal authorities claim that users were incited to upload copyright content by being offered rewards for having high views and downloads. These rewards were distributed to paid members whose accounts the FBI claims were used to launder money for the mega criminal organization.
This shutdown did not go without notice. Several public websites were attacked by the hacker group Anonymous. The websites Anonymous attacked were made up of major media companies along with the website for The Department of Justice.
A tweet posted by a member of Anonymous said, “The government takes down Megaupload? 15 minutes later Anonymous takes down government & record label sites.”
This attack was done using Anonymous’ standard denial of service attack. By the end of the day service to the attacked websites was restored.
It is interesting that this crackdown happened the day after the Internet went dark in protest of SOPA and PIPA. Many in the piracy community see this as a clear message from the government that the coming year is going to be a hard one for piracy. While Megaupload and Megavideo were major sources of pirated content, they were also used by a number of legitimate businesses as a way to cheaply host content for their users to access. While Megaupload and Megavideo are down, there is a chance these two websites could return in the unlikely case that they manage to be found innocent in the face of the growing case against them.