Megaupload is Megapwned by Gov't, Anonymous Hits Back, Downs DOJ Homepage
January 19, 2012 9:34 PM
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One of the the world's biggest content distribution sites -- and oft a piracy tool -- is no longer with us
The U.S. government, still digesting the
massive public outcry
"Stop Online Piracy Act"
) and "PROTECT IP Act" (PIPA) (
), executed what it calls a major anti-piracy operation Thursday afternoon, working with American ISPs to block access to top content upload site Megaupload.com, which the government alleges is a source of persistent copyright infringement.
I. RIP Megaupload
Four of the site's seven core admins were arrested by police in New Zealand, in cooperation with their American peers. According to the most recent report all seven admins have since been
taken into custody
Megaupload was rated the internet's 72nd most used website, and at its peak was the 13th most popular onine property in the world.
The site was founded in Hong Kong by wealthy entrepeneur Kim Schmitz (aka "Kim Dotcom), a German expatriate with a flare for controversy (and in his earlier days insider trading and hacking). Kim Dotcom reportedly was living in a NZ$30M ($24.08M USD) outside of Auckland, New Zealand, living a cozy existence under the psedunonym "Kim Tim Jim Vestor" and sporting a fake Finnish passport.
Part of the so-called "Megaworld" franchise, Megaupload offered 200 GB of storage space to users for free. This allowed users to share content with each other. The only downside from a convenience perspective was that sharing worked through a queue system. Buying a paid account removed the queueing system and its annoyances, allowing you to upload and pass direct links to your friends.
MegaUpload is no more. [Images Source: MegaUpload via Venture Beat]
The site's easy to use model earned it "more than 150 million registered users, 50 million daily visitors and accounting for four percent of the total traffic on the Internet" according to the U.S.
Department of Justice
's (DOJ's) complaint filed against the site and its administrators
II. Feds Kill MegaUpload Abruptly, Arrest It's New Zealand Admins
The DOJ accuses Megaupload of acting as the internet's mixtape site and engaging in massive scale copyright violation. While Megaworld's user policy states that it does not condone infringement and complies with Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedowns from the U.S. federal government for users found to be infringing content, the DOJ argues that the site was support criminality.
It points to $175M USD in property -- including 15 Mercedes, a Maserati, a Lamborghini, a Rolls-Royce with the license plate "GOD" -- that it seized during its raids on the suspects' property. The DOJ claims that Megaupload masterminded the theft of over $500M USD in copyright work.
The inviduals arrested during the raid, according to the indictment, are:
• Finn Batato, 38, a citizen and resident of Germany, MegaWorld's chief marketing officer;
• Julius Bencko, 35, a Slovakian national who is the graphic designer;
• Sven Echternach, 39, a citizen and resident of Germany, who is the head of business development;
• Mathias Ortmann, 40, the company's chief technical officer, co-founder and director; who previously split his time between Hong Kong and Germany, his native home.
• Andrus Nomm, 32, a megaworld Estonian software programmer and head of the development software division;
• Bram van der Kolk, aka Bramos, 29, a Netherlands native who assisted in programming and network engineers consultant for Mega conspiracy websites.
Again, the site was for profit and insists that it had gone legit and was not supporting piracy.
UMG was particuarly peeved when several of its artists including Kanye West, Will.I.Am, Jamie Foxx, Sean "Diddy" Combs, Alicia Keys, Chris Brown -- performed a video plugging the site -- titled "The MegaUpload Song":
The UMG briefly suceeded in convincing sites like Google Inc.'s (
) YouTube into false takedowns, but when Megaupload produced documents indicating that the artists all legally agreed to make the song, the track was restated to UMG chagrin.
The DOJ's press release can be found
. The full complaint can be found
The DOJ appears to have sided with the irrate UMG in punishing MegaUpload. It justifies the seizure of $50M USD worth of server electronics in Ashburn, Virg.; Washington, D.C.; the Netherlands; and Canada, by claiming Megaupload's linking system inherently encouraged piracy. It also accuses Megaupload of failing to process takedown requests on users found to be pirating.
In response to the takedowns and arrests, worldwide internet "hacktivist" collective
blasted the DOJ, Universal Music Group (a property of Vivendi SpA (
)), and the
Recording Industry Association of America
, and the
Motion Picture Association of America
's websites with distributed denial of service attacks, taking them down, temporarily.
As of 10:00 p.m. EST, these attacks had almost completely subsided allowing normal access to the targeted sites. Megaupload, on the other hand, remains quite dead.
Some members of the group-without-a-leader posted a message on the Twitter account
, "The government takes down #Megaupload? 15 minutes later #Anonymous takes down government & record label sites. #ExpectUs."
' posts even claimed to have downed the
U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigations
page. This claim was unable to be verified. If it did go down, it only went down briefly, as it was fully functional for most of the evening.
A member of
writes on the Twitter account, "The Internet is here. Are you ready for The Year of Cyber War? We are. Rise up and join us to fight for your rights."
To be clear,
's retailiatory DDoS attacks have nothing directly to do with the SOPA/PIPA protests, though numerous members of the group did also support those efforts.
This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled
1/20/2012 1:54:13 AM
So what exactly did megaupload do wrong? I get that it's a site that's loaded with pirated software/videos, but what did they do wrong? Is it not in their terms and agreement for users not to upload things that infringe on copyright laws? It's like the bulletin analogy all over again. Do you go after the person who put up an illegal child pornographic image on a bulletin board? Or do you go after the person who own the Bulletin Board.
RE: Bulletin board
1/20/2012 2:16:35 PM
My take on it (I have no insider information, this is just speculation) is that due to many of the files uploaded to Megaupload being password protected, only the users know the contents of the files. It's not like YouTube where the MPAA can browse all the videos looking for infringing videos.
From past stories, Megaupload did take down copyright-infringing files when requested. It's just that because it's a
sharing service rather than a video/music sharing service, users are free to encrypt the files thus preventing copyright holders or Megaupload from knowing what's in them.
If I'm right, and the courts uphold this, then in practical terms this is a very, very scary precedent. It means generic file storage services which allow sharing (e.g. Dropbox, Amazon S3) are pretty much illegal. That if the storage service and copyright holders cannot view the contents of encrypted files, then they're presumed to be infringing. Basically, copyright enforcement > privacy.
RE: Bulletin board
1/26/2012 1:21:46 PM
....or basically any cloud storage deals which are all the rage right now.
This deal is heading a train wreck when the legitimate use train hits the remote file storage bridge the govt just blew up.
"We shipped it on Saturday. Then on Sunday, we rested." -- Steve Jobs on the iPad launch
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