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File-sharing site MegaUpload.com indicted for Internet piracy; Shut down by U.S. officials

Megan Geuss and David Daw | Jan. 20, 2012
MegaUpload.com, one of the Internet's most well-known file-sharing sites, was shuttered by federal officials Thursday, and its founder Kim Dotcom (formerly Kim Schmitz) and three other executives connected to the parent company MegaUpload Limited, were arrested in New Zealand.

MegaUpload.com, one of the Internet's most well-known file-sharing sites, was shuttered by federal officials Thursday, and its founder Kim Dotcom (formerly Kim Schmitz) and three other executives connected to the parent company MegaUpload Limited, were arrested in New Zealand.

Hacker collective Anonymous appeared to respond to the government's action by taking down several high-profile sites with a quickly coordinated DDoS attack.

As of Thursday afternoon, Anonymous seemed to have shut down the websites for the RIAA, the MPAA, Universal Music Group, and even the U.S. Copyright Office. The timing of the indictment almost certainly fanned the flames of Anonymous's anger, coming just one day after the group participated in a nationwide protest against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) which the group had vigorously opposed for months.

[Read: Were SOPA/PIPA Protests a Success?]

An 72-page indictment filed in U.S. District Court based in Alexandria, Virgina, near Washington D.C. charges MegaUpload.com with conspiracy to commit racketeering, copyright infringement, and money laundering, among other charges connected with illegal use of copyrighted materials. The indictment was signed by U.S. Attorney Neil H. MacBride of the Eastern District of Virginia. Some of MegaUpload.com's servers reportedly are in Auburn, Virginia, which is in the Eastern District.

A statement from the FBI called the action "among the largest criminal copyright cases ever brought by the United States and directly targets the misuse of a public content storage and distribution site to commit and facilitate intellectual property crime."

More Details

The indictment alleges that the criminal enterprise is led by Dotcom and Kim Tim Jim Vestor, 37, a resident of both Hong Kong and New Zealand. Federal statements said that Dotcom founded Megaupload Limited and is the director and sole shareholder of Vestor Limited, which has been used to hold his ownership interests in the Mega-affiliated sites.

The FBI statement said the following people also were charged in the indictment:

  • Finn Batato, 38, a citizen and resident of Germany, who is the chief marketing officer;
  • Julius Bencko, 35, a citizen and resident of Slovakia, who is the graphic designer;
  • Sven Echternach, 39, a citizen and resident of Germany, who is the head of business development;
  • Mathias Ortmann, 40, a citizen of Germany and resident of both Germany and Hong Kong, who is the chief technical officer, co-founder and director;
  • Andrus Nomm, 32, a citizen of Estonia and resident of both Turkey and Estonia, who is a software programmer and head of the development software division;
  • Bram van der Kolk, aka Bramos, 29, a Dutch citizen and resident of both the Netherlands and New Zealand, who oversees programming and the underlying network structure for the Mega conspiracy websites.

Dotcom, Batato, Ortmann, and van der Kolk were arrested Thursday in New Zealand.

 

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