Megaupload Saga Continues: Seven People Criminally Charged with Copyright Infringement and Conspiracy; Site is Seized by DOJ
By: Kristine Holm
Seven executives connected to the Megaupload site were indicted yesterday by the Department of Justice (DOJ), four of whom were also arrested, in what the DOJ is calling one of the “largest criminal copyright cases ever brought by the United States.” The charges include two counts of criminal copyright infringement, conspiracy to commit copyright infringement, conspiracy to commit racketeering, and conspiracy to commit money laundering. The charges could result in more than 20 years in prison for the defendants. Additionally, Megaupload.com and 17 other related “Mega” domain names were seized by the DOJ pursuant to court order.
Those indicted include Megaupload Limited’s founder, Kim Dotcom, as well as the company’s chief marketing officer, chief technical officer, head of business development, graphic designer, and two programmers. Although producer Swizz Beatz was at one time listed on Megaupload’s site as the company’s CEO, he is not named in the indictment and reportedly holds no equity in the company.
The indictment alleges that Megaupload committed copyright infringement by inducing users to upload copyrighted works for others to download. It also alleges that several of the defendants, including Kim Dotcom, committed direct infringement by supplying the site with copyrighted material. The indictment further claims that Megaupload failed to comply with take-down notices issued by copyright holders under the DMCA. Megaupload’s harm to copyright holders is alleged to be over $500 million.
The 72-page indictment was handed down by a grand jury two weeks ago but was not unsealed until yesterday. The arrests, coming just a day after widespread protests against SOPA and PIPA, mark a symbolic victory for the content industry. However, in an apparent response, the hacker group Anonymous has claimed responsibility for DDoS interruptions yesterday to the websites of the DOJ, Universal Music Group (UMG), and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). As of this writing, service is restored to the DOJ and RIAA sites, but UMG’s site remains unavailable.