On Thursday, the Department of Justice seized the anonymous file-sharing website Megaupload and charged seven people in connection with the site with running a criminal enterprise based on Internet piracy.
The DOJ calls this the biggest case of copyright infringement they’ve ever experienced.
In a grand jury indictment, The DOJ accused Megaupload of $500 million worth of damages to the entertainment industry. Megaupload is also under fire for making $175 million from premium subscriptions and advertisements.
Four of the seven executives of Megaupload were arrested on Friday while three others remain at large. They have been charged with five counts of copyright infringement and conspiracy. The men could face more than 20 years in prison.
Of those arrested in New Zealand was the infamous Mr. Dotcom (Kim Schmitz).
There were 20 search warrants executed in the United States and eight other countries including New Zealand. Fifty million dollars worth of assets were seized by the DOJ including a number of servers and 18 domain names that made up Megaupload’s file-sharing sites.
The police raided Dotcom’s mansion in Auckland in two helicopters. They arrived to find Dotcom is his safe room with a shortened shotgun in his possession. New Zealand police seized $4.8 million worth of exotic cars and froze $11 million that was in his various bank accounts.
That day, the hacker group Anonymous raided the DOJ’s website and other websites associated with the entertainment industry. They had this to say about SOPA and other forms of government and corporate censorship on the Internet:
The most important parts of their message goes as follows:
The United States government has mastered this corrupt way of giving us a false sense of freedom. We think we are free and can do what we want, but in reality we are very limited and restricted as to what we can do, how we can think, and even how our education is obtained. We have been so distracted by this mirage of freedom, that we have just become what we were trying to escape from.
For too long, we have been idle as our brothers and sisters were arrested. During this time, the government has been scheming, plotting ways to increase censorship through means of I S P block aides, D N S blockings, search engine censorship, website censorship, and a variety of other methods that directly oppose the values and ideas of both Anonymous as well as the founding fathers of this country, who believed in free speech and press!
I’m confused just as much as anyone is when it comes to the recent actions taken by our government on the file sharing website Megaupload. Why is our government pushing for freedom-restricting legislature like SOPA and PIPA if they can just go out and do what they did with Megaupload?
It is a little bit disheartening for opponents of Internet censorship, but Megaupload and it’s creators had to have know what they were getting themselves into. Hollywood and the record industry do not play around when it comes to their products. The government and the entertainment industry don’t give a lot of leeway to people who are stealing their content and making millions off of it. You can’t plead ignorant here.
The government was probably in the right doing this, but why would they do it now? Why would they choose to take these actions when the sentiment around the nation is on the side of protecting Internet freedom?
I’m left wondering what this means for the battle against SOPA and PIPA and the fight to maintain a healthy Internet. This is only the beginning of the fight. I’m not at all fooled into thinking the battle to maintain net neutrality is over.
The mega corporations and the government are very aware of the power the Internet has given the average citizen to be informed (although they do leave me often questioning how smart they are…). An informed public leads to a public making rational decisions about who they vote for, what they consume and how they handle their money. This means that the Internet is drastically changing how politics and money are handled in America. This means that the government will have a harder time controlling the flow of money and information. I’m sure this makes them very uncomfortable.
*Also, I think this visual is telling of the impact Occupy, Anonymous and Internet activism had on SOPA: