An Internet content hosting site operated by Alicia Keys’ husband, rap producer Swizz Beatz, has been shut down by the U.S. government. Megaupload was removed from the Interwebs this week, as debate over online piracy rages on Capitol Hill.
Have you heard? U.S. authorities have charged the founders and several employees of Megaupload with a massive copyright infringement scheme.
The bust is the latest skirmish in a government crackdown against the illegal piracy of movies and music.
The federal government made its move against the major Internet content hosting site, arresting several high-ranking officials within the company and hitting them with multiple racketeering and copyright infringement charges.
Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom (also known as Kim Schmitz), 37, was arrested in New Zealand Thursday. About 70 New Zealand cops, many heavily armed, raided 10 lavish properties in Auckland and arrested the German national.
Three other Megaupload executives — the website’s chief marketing officer, Finn Batato, 38, chief technical officer and co-founder Mathias Ortmann, 40, and Bram van der Kolk, 29 — were also taken into custody.
Swizz Beatz, Megaupload’s CEO, was not charged in a federal indictment handed down on Jan. 5. It’s unclear how the producer/rapper’s involvement with the company will play into the case.
The indictment alleges that the site, which allows users to transfer large files, has generated more than $175 million in criminal proceeds and costs copyright-holders more than $500 million in lost revenue from pirated movies, albums and other illegal materials.
This is one of largest criminal copyright cases ever brought by the U.S., the DOJ said this week. Justice Department officials announced the indictment and arrests as debate over online piracy rages in Washington, where lawmakers are trying to craft tougher legislation.
The news broke a day after major websites — including Wikipedia, Craigslist, Twitter, Facebook and Google — protested against the House of Representatives’ Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Senate’s similar Protect IP Act (PIPA).
The movie and music industries want the government to crack down on Internet piracy and content theft. But major Internet companies have complained that current drafts of the legislation would lead to censorship.
A Justice Department official says the timing of the Megaupload takedown is not related to the Congressional battle.
Try telling that to critics of the SOPA and PIPA legislation. Crafty hackers cried out over the shutdown of Megaupload by attacking the public websites of the Justice Department and the world’s largest recording label, Universal Music Group.
“The government takes down Megaupload? 15 minutes later Anonymous takes down government & record label sites,” a member of Anonymous wrote on Twitter.