FBI Shuts Down Megaupload File-Sharing Site With Online Piracy Indictments

By Fahmida Y. Rashid  |  Posted 2012-01-19 Print this article Print

title=Megaupload Claims 'Safe Harbor' Protections}

Ira P. Rothken, a lawyer for Megaupload, told the New York Times, "Megaupload believes the government is wrong on the facts, wrong on the law." Megaupload has long claimed it is legally protected by the "safe harbor" provision of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

In a strange twist on the debate about online digital media piracy, Megaupload boasted high-profile support from celebrities, musicians and others creating the content being pirated. Before the shutdown, Megaupload had endorsements from Alicia Keys, Kanye West and others.

Sites such as Megaupload, Rapidshare and Mediafire are promoted as easy ways to legitimately transfer large files from one computer to another or between two users. Media companies have long claimed the legitimate file sharing just concealed the fact that it was abetting widespread piracy.

Megaupload.com had 50 million visitors daily and accounted for 4 percent of all Internet traffic, according to the indictment. According to a recent report from Palo Alto Networks that analyzed 1,636 enterprises to determine what kinds of applications were running on their networks, Megaupload was found on 57 percent of the organizations in the study. While significantly fewer organizations ran Megaupload, as opposed to Dropbox, Megaupload consumed 20,405GB of bandwidth, compared with Dropbox's 17,573GB, the report found.

Federal investigators managed to obtain emails and other correspondence among the defendants to show they were aware Megaupload contained unauthorized content. In an email from February 2011, three of the defendants discussed an article on how to stop the government from seizing domain names, the indictment said.

The arrests and site shutdown came immediately after the widespread Internet strike on Jan. 18, when thousands of sites, including Wikipedia, went dark in protest against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA). Other sites, such as Google and Mozilla, highlighted their opposition to the bills by graphically altering their sites and encouraging users to sign petitions. On the Google site, there was a broad black band obscuring the Google logo signifying its belief that the proposed legislation would impose censorship on the Internet.

If passed, SOPA and PIPA would force Internet service providers, ad networks and search providers to block access to "offending" sites like Megaupload. If SOPA and PIPA had been law, the Megaupload shutdown would have proceeded without having to involve the FBI, since a court order was all that would be necessary.

Opponents fear that the proposed laws' broad provisions could result in legitimate sites being taken down while not affecting online piracy.


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