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Feds Shut Down File-Sharing Site; Hackers Attack Justice Department Site

Earlier today, the Justice Department announced it had charged seven people on counts of copyright infringement and conspiracy in what's being called one the biggest criminal copyright cases.

NPR's Carrie Johnson filed this report for our Newscast unit:

"The Justice Department accused Megaupload, a popular file sharing site, with helping millions of people gain access to pirated movies, music and TV programs, often before the items are released for sale.

"A federal judge in Virginia gave authorities the green light to seize 18 domain names associated with the company, putting it out of business, at least for now.

"Seven executives — all overseas — face related criminal charges that could send them to prison for 20 years.

"The charges could focus even more attention on the issue of pirated movies and other entertainment. Congress is struggling with how to crack down on piracy without alienating popular search engines and social networking sites."

The New York Times reports that four of those charged have been arrested and among them is the site's founder Kim Dotcom, whose birth name is Kim Schmitz.

Shortly after the Justice Department made its announcement, the Internet struck back. More precisely, the hacker collective Anonymous gloated on Twitter that Justice's site — — had been taken offline .

In the past, Anonymous has launched what are called denial of service attacks against the websites of organizations they're protesting against. In essence, their members send so much traffic to a site that its servers crash. We've checked justice.gov a few times over the past hour and most of time we get a broken page.

Venture Beat reports that hackers have also targeted the website of Universal Music, which is fighting a legal battle with Megaupload over a promotional video.

The Justice Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Update at 6:21 p.m. ET. Megaupload's Response:

The AP reports that before Megaupload's site was taken down, it issued a statement denying the Justice Department's allegations. The AP reports:

"Before the site was taken down, it posted a statement saying allegations that it facilitated massive breaches of copyright laws were 'grotesquely overblown.'

"'The fact is that the vast majority of Mega's Internet traffic is legitimate, and we are here to stay. If the content industry would like to take advantage of our popularity, we are happy to enter into a dialogue. We have some good ideas. Please get in touch,' the statement said."

Update at 7:31 p.m. ET. Treating It As A 'Malicious Act':

The Justice Department just confirmed that its website is indeed experiencing issues that have resulted "in a degradation in service."

"The Department is working to ensure the website is available while we investigate the origins of this activity, which is being treated as a malicious act until we can fully identify the root cause of the disruption," a spokesperson said in a statement.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.