The FBI and the Justice Department have charged seven people in connection with the popular file-sharing site.
According to The New York Times, a grand jury indictment finds Megaupload responsible for $500 million in damages to copyright owners, and says the site made $175 million selling ads and subscriptions in the process. Seven people were charged in connection with the site, including its founder, who goes by the name Kim Dotcom. He was arrested in New Zealand along with three others, and faces multiple counts of copyright infringement and conspiracy, which could result in up to 20 years in prison.
The move comes just as people across the US, as well as websites like Wikipedia and Google, staged protests against the Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA, and the Protect IP Act, or PIPA. Among other things, these bills would give American authorities the ability to prosecute foreign websites they believe are guilty of piracy. Detractors say they would pose unacceptable limitations on what content is available online, and would be tantamount to censorship.
Since Megaupload went down, so-called "hacktivists" have been tossing what the Times describes as "digital molotov cocktails," attacking official sites for the RIAA, Universal Music Group, the Motion Picture Association of America and the Department of Justice. One group called Anonymous is suspected to be behind most of the attacks, and may have taken credit for them via Twitter.
The Justice Department says the case against Megaupload is "among the largest criminal copyright cases ever brought by the United States."