In what the U.S. authorities have called one of the largest criminal copyright cases ever brought, the Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have 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 transfer large files like movies and music anonymously. 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 by selling ads and premium subscriptions.
Four of the seven people, including the site’s founder, Kim Dotcom (born Kim Schmitz), were arrested Friday in New Zealand; 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 ofcopyright infringement and conspiracy. The charges could result in more than 20 years in prison.
As part of the crackdown, about 20 search warrants were executed in the United States and in eight other countries, including New Zealand. About $50 million in assets were also seized, as well as a number of servers and 18domain names that formed Megaupload’s network of file-sharing sites.
The police arrived at Dotcom Mansion in Auckland on Friday morning in two helicopters. Mr. Dotcom, a 37-year-old with dual Finnish and German citizenship, retreated into a safe room, and the police had to cut their way in. He was eventually arrested with a firearm close by that the police said appeared to be a shortened shotgun.