US swoops on internet firm

 
City A.M. Reporter
MEGAUPLOAD, one the biggest online content hosting websites, has been charged by US authorities for a massive copyright infringement scheme, the latest skirmish in America’s battle against piracy of movies and music.

Four company executives have been arrested in New Zealand and will face extradition hearings, accused of engaging in a scheme that took more than $500m away from copyright holders and generated over $175m in proceeds, according to the indictment unsealed yesterday.

Megaupload.com was shut down last night, after a federal court in Virginia ordered that 18 domain names associated with the group be seized. Some 20 search warrants were executed in the United States and eight other countries and about $50m in assets and targeted sites were also seized.

The move sparked online protests, with internet activists Anonymous claiming credit for felling a number of websites including that the Recording Industry Association of America.

A Justice Department official said the timing of the arrests and unsealing of the case were not related to the battle in Congress over the Protect IP Act and Stop Online Privacy Act, which sparked widespread online campaigning earlier in the week.