Cyberlaw, Department of Justice, Technology

SOPA Be Damned, DOJ Has Sent a Message to Internet Pirates. And the Internet Sent a Message Right Back

Not going to lie. These guys are starting to make me nervous.

While the Internet was throwing itself a party yesterday for taking down the Stop Online Piracy Act, getting drunk off its own power and shooting pistols into the air like a Mexican fiesta, the Department of Justice was already throwing up a big middle finger to offshore rogue websites, or whatever they’re calling pirates now.

Yesterday, the DOJ and FBI seized and shut down one of the largest filesharing websites on the internet. The department also filed indictments against seven people involved in the site, in what authorities call one of the “largest criminal copyright cases ever brought.” That’s pretty big news all by itself. But, oh it gets better.

Everyone’s favorite shady hacker collective, Anonymous, struck back in revenge almost immediately. The group launched massive denial of service attacks against every media and governmental website their deranged hive mind could think of.

So, which of your favorite movie streaming sites is no longer online? And who faced the wrath of Anonymous? It’s a long list…

The New York Times has a good summary of what happened:

Megaupload, one of the most popular so-called locker services on the Internet, allowed users to anonymously transfer large files like movies and music. Media companies have long accused it of abetting copyright infringement on a vast scale. In a grand jury indictment, Megaupload is accused of causing $500 million in damages to copyright owners and of making $175 million through selling ads and premium subscriptions.

If you’re not familiar with the site, here’s a bizarre video ad they put out a few weeks ago, which strangely features a ton of celebrities apparently endorsing it.

So that happened. And then this happened. From Gizmodo:

Anonymous has sure been quiet lately, but today’s federal bust of Megaupload riled ’em up good: a retaliatory strike against (and plenty of other foes) leaving them completely dead.

Gizmodo called the attacks “easily the widest in scope and ferocity we’ve seen in some time. If you had any doubts Anonymous is still a hacker wrecking ball, doubt no more.”

Here is a not-necessarily complete list of the sites that Anonymous took down for a large chunk of yesterday afternoon:

– The Department of Justice, obviously.
– The FBI
– The RIAA
– The MPAA
– The US Copyright Office
– Universal Music Group

See, this is exactly what Elie is worried about. All righteous, populist, anti-censorship rage aside, Anonymous is clearly wrong here. Megaupload was breaking the law and making a ton of money doing it. Anyone who has visited or used Megaupload will know it is not a legitimate business. (Full disclosure: As a user, I am, err, personally acquainted with the site.) This wasn’t an ethically ambiguous law enforcement decision, like tear-gassing protesters or even prosecuting Bradley Manning. The DOJ is just doing its job. And doing it well.

The timing of the takedown, intentionally or not, does serve as a good eff you to everyone celebrating SOPA’s demise, (and implicitly celebrating the continued ability to get free movies on the Internet). On the other hand, the indictments also makes it clear that under the existing legal system the government is not some powerless babe in the woods against pirates.

The Feds still have a long way to go to convict the people behind Megaupload. Westlaw Insider explains:

Basically, the feds will have to prove not only that members of the “Mega Conspiracy” knew copyright infringement was going on, but also either actively engaged in it themselves or “aided or abetted” in its commission.

Either way, it seems becoming clearer every day that SOPA or no, the battle for the Internet is far from over. Folks, this is going to get ugly.

Anonymous Goes on Megaupload Revenge Spree: DoJ, RIAA, MPAA, and Universal Music All Offline [Gizmodo]
7 Charged as F.B.I. Closes a Top File-Sharing Site [New York Times]

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