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Feds Take Down Copyright Violator One Day After SOPA Protests

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Megaupload, formerly one of the best ways online to watch season two of Downton Abbey before it released in the US, was shut down yesterday by the Justice Department. Seven people have been charged with, among a host of other things, violating copyright laws. Four were arrested in New Zealand and have been denied bail.

Authorities have called it the largest criminal copyright case in history.

According to the New York Times, around twenty search warrants were executed in the US and eight other countries and close to $50 million in assets seized. Justice department officials also took 18 Megaupload domain names and several servers.

Megaupload is one of the largest of a number of digital locker sites that allow users to store and transfer large files quickly and easily. However, the authorities allege that the site trafficked in copyrighted content. They plan to use private email correspondences between the site’s operators in their case.

Even though none of the four men arrested are American citizens, some Megaupload servers were located in Virginia, which allowed the Justice Department to act.

Of course, the great irony of the Megaupload shutdown is that it came one day after the Google (GOOG) and Wikipedia-led protest against SOPA and PIPA. To make things even more interesting, both the House and the Senate announced today that they were tabling the two bills for the time being.

The timing of this announcement seems to speak to the protest’s success, but it also raises questions about the government’s actions towards Megaupload. At the very least, the arrests in New Zealand prove just how unnecessary SOPA and PIPA are for copyright enforcement.

Rather than ponder the subtleties of the government’s timing, the Internet reacted with immediate, and predictable, fury. Hacker collective Anonymous quickly took down the websites for the DOJ, MPAA, RIAA and others.

For now, it looks like the battle between copyright supporters and Internet purists rages on. That said, earlier today the Atlantic ran an interesting piece wondering if the current copyright fight is doing anything more than hurting both sides.

It should be fun to see how the case shakes out and, slim consolation though it may be, there’s always Hulu.
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