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FBI shuts down Megaupload.com

Raid draws hacking against government, entertainment industry

Megaupload.com, alleged to be one of the world’s most popular sources of online piracy, has been shut down by a federal indictment issued Thursday.

The cyberlocker enabled file-sharing said to be teeming with movies, music and TV shows for as many as 50 million daily visitors a day. Megaupload.com has been measured as the 13th most popular website on the planet.

The FBI, which led the investigation, characterized the indictment as “among the largest criminal copyright cases ever brought by the United States.” The indictment says the site’s backers have generated revenues totaling $175 million.

Hours after the indictment went public, the notorious hackers known as Anonymous claimed to be behind an attack on the websites for Universal Music Group and Department of Justice, which were rendered inaccessible. Anonymous explained the attack was in retaliation for the crackdown on Megaupload.

The indictment targets seven individuals including Kim Dotcom, aka Kim Schmitz and Kim Tim Jim Vestor, the alleged ringleader of the operation. He and three others were arrested in Auckland, New Zealand, on Thursday.

The indictment hits the ring with a raft of charges including racketeering, copyright infringement and money laundering that each carry anywhere from five to 20 years of prison time.

All told, the Megaupload empire is spread across 18 different domains with servers in Ashburn, Va., Washington, D.C., the Netherlands and Canada.

The shuttering of Megaupload comes as piracy has emerged as hot-button issue on Capitol Hill, where the SOPA and PIPA proposals could provide the government with powerful–and controversial–new tools for fighting copyright infringement.

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