A day after major websites protested legislation aimed at online piracy, the Justice Department shut down one of the world's largest file-sharing sites and charged its executives with violating piracy laws.
Seven Megaupload employees, including founder Kim Dotcom, face charges ranging from conspiracy to money laundering. Dotcom and three others have been arrested in New Zealand, at the request of U.S. officials, according to a Justice Department statement.
According to the indictment, filed in the U.S. District Court of for the Eastern District of Virginia, Megaupload and a related website stole and distributed copyrighted content.
Megaupload had the support of many musicians, including Alicia Keys and Kanye West, according to the Associated Press.
Before Megaupload.com was taken down on Thursday, the company issued a statement disputing the charges.
"The fact is that the vast majority of Mega's Internet traffic is legitimate, and we are here to stay," the company said, calling the case "grotesquely overblown."
Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who is fighting to have his anti-piracy Protect IP Act bill passed in the Senate, said the case underscores the need for his legislation, which targets foreign websites that offer counterfeit goods and pirated music, movies and other content.
"Today's action by the Department of Justice against the leaders of Megaupload.com shows what law enforcement can do to protect American intellectual property that is stolen through domestic websites," Leahy said in a statement. "Unfortunately, there are no tools in the arsenal to protect that same American intellectual property from theft by websites hosted and operated overseas."
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