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Megaupload Shut Down; Anonymous Targets Government and Entertainment Websites in Revenge

Posted on the 20 January 2012 by Periscope @periscopepost

Megaupload shut down; Anonymous targets government and entertainment websites in revenge

Members of Anonymous. Photocredit: Liryon

After the US government closed down the file-sharing website Megaupload on charges of criminal copyright infringement, the “hacktivist” group Anonymous has launched a series of attacks on government and entertainment websites. The group’s hit the Department of Justice, the FBI,  and Universal Music Group, amongst others, overloading the sites with traffic and forcing them offline. This, said The Telegraph, marks “a further escalation” in the fight between “copyright holders” and “those who oppose regulation of the internet.” It comes after Wikipedia blacked out its content in opposition to Sopa and Pipa, two pieces of intellectual property legislation currently going through Congress. was closed “overnight”, according to The Telegraph. The site, set up in 2005, let people exchange video and audio files for free; it’s accused of “deliberately ignoring requests from film and music firms to remove pirated material” – whilst the site itself made $175 million from membership fees and advertising. It charged $9.99 per month for membership, and received 50 millino visitors a day. Its leader, 37 year old “Kim Dotcom”, was arrested in Auckland, New Zealand, and faces 20 years in jail. Prosecutors say, according to The Guardian, that the website lost copyright holders up to $500 million (£320 million) in revenue over five years. Police, according to Sky News,  have seized “guns, artwork and more than £6 m in cash and luxury cars” from the group. The others charged were ”Finn Batato, chief of marketing and sales; Julius Bencko, lead graphic designer; Sven Echternach; head of business development; Mathias Ortmann, chief technical officer and co-founder; software programmer Andrus Nomm; and chief of programming Bram Van Der Kolk,” said The Wall Street Journal’s Law blog.

Commentators are pondering the significance of the timing of the raid, just as important issues of copyright protection are going through the American Congress; they are also thinking about whether the charges against Megaupload are criminal.

The Wall Street Journal’s Law blog published the indictment, including extracts of emails between staff members of Megaupload:

“On or about July 9, 2008, VAN DER KOLK sent an e-mail to a third party, entitled ‘funny chat-log.’

In the e-mail, VAN DER KOLK copied the text of a previous online conversation between himself and ORTMANN, in which VAN DER KOLK had stated, ‘we have a funny business . . . modern days pirates :)

ORTMANN responded, ‘we’re not pirates, we’re just providing shipping services to pirates :) .’”

Computer security company Sophos warned internet users to be wary of clicking on unknown links – which might turn your computer into a “zombie”, unwittingly aiding Anonymous in its attacks.

Hollywood Reporter gave a list of the top ten pirated movies of all time – number one, surprisingly, is Avatar.

Anonymous posted the following on their Twitter feed: “you feel censored yet? We sincerely hope you like your own medicine! #Anonymous #OpMegaupload”

The Financial Times suggested that some thought the timing of the Megaupload raid was “no coincidence” – either because of Wikipedia’s lobbying against SOPA and PIPA, or as “a deliberate attempt to provoke Anonymous into action.”

“”I hope that if this case goes to trial and results in convictions, that the court will be careful in sorting out just what Megaupload did that crossed the line of criminality,” said James Grimmelmann of New York Law School to the Arstechnica blog.

Were they criminal? They were certainly bling. Nate Anderson on the Arstechnica site called the raid a “nuclear bomb.” The site paid its employees “lavishly” – the graphic designer, a Slovakian called Julius Bencko, earned “more than $1 million in 2010 alone.” Six individuals owned between them 14 Mercedes-Benz cars. The license plates included: “POLICE”, “MAFIA”, “STONED”, “HACKER”, and, said the sight, “perhaps presciently”, “GUILTY.” They also owned a Maserati, a Rolls-Royce and a Lamborghini. It’s a “major case”. Megaupload controlled 525 servers in Virginia, USA, and 630 in the Netherlands, plus more around the world. It’s always claimed that it took down unauthorised content. But the US government says that the site only “wanted the veneer of legitimacy”, whilst knowing “full well” that the site was mainly “infringing content.”

Did they trick users? Yes, according to the  indictment as interpreted by the WSJ Law blog: “If a user tried to upload a movie that was already in the company’s servers, it wouldn’t be duplicated on servers but a new link would be created nevertheless. So any one file could have dozens (or more) links, meaning a copyright holder would have to track them all down in order to actually have the one underlying file erased from the servers.”

Anonymous’ new tactics are bad. Gawker called Anonymous’ new zombie tactics “evil.” Attacking websites in such a way is a “criminal offense” with up to 10 years in prison. Now “some enterprising anonymous member” has made a link that “automatically fires.” It could lead to “huge numbers of witless internet users inadvertently attacking” sites just by clicking on a random link. “It may greatly increase the effectiveness of today’s attacks, but it also renders them largely meaningless.”


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