Popular file-sharing sites, Megaupload and Megavideo, were shut down by federal prosecutors on Thursday and hackers from Anonymous retaliated by launching an attack on federal and public Web sites: The online battle over Internet piracy just got personal.
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Megaupload and Megavideo, content-sharing Web sites that receive more than 50 million hits per day, got taken down by the Department of Justice on Thursday after an indictment claimed the sites have committed copyright infringement.
The crackdown comes just one day after a mass online protest against two bills, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) currently being pushed forward and debated by Congress.
While the bills are being presented in an aim to stop music and video piracy, internet giants such as Google and Facebook are complaining that the legislation being proposed will lead to internet censorship.
Four company executives, including Megaupload's founder Kim Schmitz, were arrested after the indictment was delivered by the Department of Justice. The individuals have been accused of having involvement with copyright infringement and a conspiracy to commit money laundering, according to Wired.com.
The Department of Justice says the arrests made are unlinked to the SOPA and PIPA bills, but critics of the shutdown say this is the beginning of what will ultimately turn into widespread Internet censorship.
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"You think it's a coincidence that the feds shutdown megavideo a day after the Websites blackout protesting the bills?" said freelance Web producer James Buran. "It's a war: Anonymos-1 Feds-1, let's see who makes the next move."
Those who try and access Megaupload's site are greeted with the following message:
"This domain name associated with the website Megaupload.com has been seized pursuant to an order issued by a U.S. District Court. A federal grand jury has indicted several individuals and entities allegedly involved in the operation of Megaupload.com and related Websites charging them with the following federal crimes: Conspiracy to commit racketeering, conspiracy to commit copyright infringement, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and criminal copyright infringement."
Hours after the notice went up, Anonymous launched an attack on public Web sites including the Justice Department, Universal Music and other trade groups that represent the music and film industries and are the prime backers of SOPA and PIPA. All these sites are back online.
"The government takes down Megaupload? 15 minutes later Anonymous takes down government & record label sites," a hacker from Anonymous tweeted.
A federal court in Virginia has ordered the seizure of 18 domain names affiliated with Megaupload and $50 million in assets have also been seized. The seizure has been described by the Department of Justice as "Among the largest criminal copyright Cases" ever bought on by the US government.
The SOPA and PIPA bills have wreaked havoc on the Web in recent days. Wikipedia's founder, Jimmy Wales, blacked-out the English language arm of his vast site on Wednesday in protest of the bills, saying SOPA and PIPA, as currently drafted, will leave them no alternative but to police the online activity on their sites.
Wales told the BBC that the bill is written so badly that it is going to affect "so many things that have very little to do with stopping piracy."
Meanwhile, Senator Harry Reid sent out this tweet on Friday: "In light of recent events, I have decided to postpone Tuesday's vote on the Protect IP Act #PIPA"