Megaupload, one of the Internet's largest file-sharing sites, and seen by many as a haven for piracy, has been shut down by officials in the US, and its founder, Kim Dotcom, arrested in New Zealand.
"Seven individuals and two corporations have been charged in the United States with running an international organised criminal enterprise allegedly responsible for massive worldwide online piracy of numerous types of copyrighted works, through Megaupload.com and other related sites, generating more than $175 million in criminal proceeds and causing more than half a billion dollars in harm to copyright owners, the US Justice Department and FBI announced today" the US Department of Justice said in a statement on Thursday.
"The individuals and two corporations - Megaupload Limited and Vestor Limited - were indicted by a grand jury in the Eastern District of Virginia on Jan. 5, 2012, and charged with engaging in a racketeering conspiracy, conspiring to commit copyright infringement, conspiring to commit money laundering and two substantive counts of criminal copyright infringement.
"The individuals each face a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison on the charge of conspiracy to commit racketeering, 5 years in prison on the charge of conspiracy to commit copyright infringement, 20 years in prison on the charge of conspiracy to commit money laundering and 5 years in prison on each of the substantive charges of criminal copyright infringement."
However if the DOJ thought that would be the end of it, they were going to be corrected.
In the space of a couple of hours after Megaupload going offline, Anonymous members from around the world have systematically been attacking major media companies with Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks bringing many of them down, or grinding to a halt.
So far Anonymous members are claiming they have brought down the Recording Industry Association of America's site, Universal Music Group, MPAA.org, the US Copyright Office, BMI, Warner Music Group's website, FBI.gov, and sonymusic.com, with the list still growing.
Detailing the attacks, which are being dubbed as the largest performed by the group, via numerous Twitter feeds, @YourAnonNews said:
"You cannot censor the internet. You cannot subpoena a hashtag. You cannot arrest an idea. You CAN expect us #OpMegaupload"
Independent tracking service, Akamai, who offers a free real-time tracking service of DDoS attacks is currently reporting 218 attacks in the last 24 hours, many centred on America. According to the company, that's 24 per cent above average.
The moves by the Department of Justice and Anonymous come just a day after protests by large companies like Google, Facebook, and Wikipedia over the government's plans to introduce a new bill in the US designed to stop piracy.
Called SOPA, standing for Stop Online Piracy Act, it would allow media companies or the US government to shut down websites it thought were breaking copyright law without traditional court hearings.
Some commentators have since questioned that if US officials are able to shut down the Megaupload site and arrest its founder in New Zealand, the current laws are good enough.