Friday, January 20, 2012

One Per Cent - Megaupload site takedown sparks Anonymous action

Paul Marks, senior technology correspondent
(Image: AFP Photo/
Yesterday's shutdown of the Megaupload file storage website, and the arrest of four of its founders in New Zealand, illustrates how a global Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) may be facilitating coordinated multinational clampdowns on alleged digital content piracy.
The move, led by the FBI, comes just a day after huge protests on the internet against SOPA - controversial US legislation designed to stop online piracy.

Megaupload allowed users to upload and store large files to make them easily downloaded by others, without using sophisticated peer-to-peer software. But the FBI alleges it was posting "movies, music, TV programmes, ebooks and business and entertainment software on a massive scale" - allegedly costing copyright owners $500 million in lost sales.
The Megaupload shutdown brought a rapid response from the hacktivist sector. Anonymous directed its denial-of-service attack weapon, the Low Orbit Ion Cannon (LOIC), at the US Department of Justice, plus major-league copyright owners like movie studios, recording companies and their respective copyright protection arms, the MPAA and RIAA. Unusually, it used a new trick that harnessed Twitter users to amplify the LOIC's effects.
Cars belonging to the owners of Megaupload are impounded in New Zealand. (Image: Elliott Kember)

As New Scientist wrote in 2008, ACTA has long promised hard times for such file-sharing sites. The treaty aids multinational cooperation on this issue - and the operation against Megaupload was a highly transnational affair. The FBI says authorities in the US, Canada, Hong Kong, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Germany and the UK helped them seize Megaupload's staff and $50 million in assets.
Signed in October 2011, ACTA brings in sweeping measures to shut down websites, disconnect infringers, arrest uploaders and force ISPs to monitor traffic for intellectual property theft. Even people swapping sports highlights on their cellphones could come under its purview, as could searches of electronic equipment at border posts.
With ACTA in place, we're probably going to be seeing a lot more operations like this.

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