The Department of Justice shut down one of the world’s largest file-sharing sites today, charging the founders of Megaupload.com with violating piracy laws. Anonymous, a hacker collective advocating for a free and open Internet, did not take kindly to this.
As of Thursday afternoon, the Department of Justice website (www.justice.gov) has not been functional. Gizmodo reports that this seems to be the result of a DDoS attack and states that its “easily the widest in scope we’ve seen in some time.”
The websites for the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America), Universal Music Group and MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) are down as well.
Here are some tweets from some of Anonymous’ common Twitter handles revealing involvement:
RT reports that Anonymous member Barrett Brown said that the attack on these groups “was in retaliation for Megaupload”. RT has more on the sequence of events:
Less than an hour after the DoJ and Universal sites came down, the website for the RIAA, or Recording Industry Association of America, went offline as well.
Minutes later, MPAA.org also returned an error as Anonymous hacktivists managed to bring the website for the Motion Picture Association of America. The group, headed by former senator Chris Dodd, is an adamant supporter of both PIPA and SOPA legislation.
Universal Music Group, or UMG, is the largest record company in the United States and under its umbrella are the labels Interscope-Geffen-A&M, the Island Def Jam Motown Music Group and Mercury Records.
RT reports that Brown has said more will be coming, including “damage [to the] campaign raising abilities” of democrats who support SOPA.
The Justice Department said in a statement earlier today that Kim Dotcom, formerly known as Kim Schmitz, and three other executives were arrested Thursday in New Zealand at the request of U.S. officials. Two other defendants are at large.
An indictment accuses Megaupload.com of costing copyright holders more than $500 million in lost revenue from pirated films and other content. The indictment was unsealed one day after websites including Wikipedia and Craigslist shut down in protest of two congressional proposals intended to thwart online piracy.
Megaupload was unique not only because of its massive size and the volume of downloaded content, but also because it had high-profile support from celebrities, musicians and other content producers who are most often the victims of copyright infringement and piracy. Before the website was taken down, it contained endorsements from Kim Kardashian, Alicia Keys and Kanye West, among others.
The Hong Kong-based company listed Swizz Beatz, a musician who married Keys in 2010, as its CEO. He was not named in the indictment and declined to comment through a representative.
Before the site was taken down, it posted a statement saying allegations that it facilitated massive breaches of copyright laws were “grotesquely overblown.”
“The fact is that the vast majority of Mega’s Internet traffic is legitimate, and we are here to stay. If the content industry would like to take advantage of our popularity, we are happy to enter into a dialogue. We have some good ideas. Please get in touch,” the statement said.
The site boasted 150 million registered users who could download films, TV shows, games, music and other content for free, but made money by charging subscriptions to people who wanted access to faster download speeds or extra content. The website also sold advertising.
The indictment was returned in the Eastern District of Virginia, which claimed jurisdiction in part because some of the alleged pirated materials were hosted on leased servers in Ashburn, Va.
Dotcom, a resident of both Hong Kong and New Zealand, and a dual citizen of Finland and Germany, made more than $42 million from the conspiracy in 2010 alone, according to the indictment.
Dotcom is founder, former CEO and current chief innovation officer of Megaupload.
Stay tuned for more information on the Anonymous attack as it develops.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.