In a bit of serendipity, the day after the big Internet protest against SOPA and PIPA the FBI acts on the powers already granted under the law to shut down a massive file sharing site
(NY Times) In what the federal authorities on Thursday called one of the largest criminal copyright cases ever brought, the Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation seized the Web site Megaupload and charged seven people connected with it with running an international enterprise based on Internet piracy.
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.
Four of the seven people, including the site’s founder, Kim Dotcom (born Kim Schmitz), have been arrested in New Zealand, the authorities said; the three others remain at large. Each of the seven people — who the indictment said were members of a criminal group it called “Mega Conspiracy” — is charged with five counts of copyright infringement and conspiracy. The charges could result in more than 20 years in prison.
So, we apparently have laws that allow Government to shut down rogue websites which exist solely to share material, much of which is copyrighted. What would SOPA and PIPA do extra? And that is the concern of opponents of the S&P bills. S&P is a vast overreach by government, which would give a bloated, faceless, and unelected bureaucracy the power to police the Internet. Where would one go if they nailed your website for an explanation and relief?
Meanwhile, Anonymous went on a “revenge spree” and took down the websites of the FBI, every domain associated with the DoJ, RIAA, MPAA, EMI, the US Copyright office, and Universal Music, among others. On one hand, this seems extreme: Megaupload was, in fact, stealing content, denying the copyright holders the residuals for their intellectual property, and making tons of money themselves. How would they feel if they wrote a popular song and were denied earnings due to being shared?
The Electronic Frontier Foundation, which defends free speech and digital rights online, said in a statement that, “This kind of application of international criminal procedures to Internet policy issues sets a terrifying precedent. If the United States can seize a Dutch citizen in New Zealand over a copyright claim, what is next?”
Meanwhile, Cracked writer Soren Bowie points out the only argument in favor of SOPA/PIPA . Read carefully.