A federal sting that targeted illegal downloads shuttered a popular file-sharing website on Thursday. The website has ties to Hip Hop producer Swizz Beatz, who was in discussions to become the CEO of the site. The website, based in Hong Kong, is that of Megaupload.com. Four of its executives were arrested in New Zealand and an unsealed indictment charging seven people with content piracy was made available to the public. The indictment mentions half a billion dollars in losses.
Hackers took revenge on the Department of Justice, crippling the website for the majority of the day on Thursday. The Anonymous group was responsible for the crippling of the Department of Justice’s website. A spokeswoman for the Department of Justice confirmed the attack with the following statement:
“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,” said spokesman Laura Sweeney.
Another website, belonging to the Motion Picture Association of America, was also hacked, but was back and running by Thursday night. Beatz’s real name is Kasseem Dean, was not named in the five-count indictment from the government.
Dean married singer Alicia Keys back in 2010 and had been in discussions to take over a high-profile job at Megaupload but a final agreement was never reached, according to the company’s attorney.
“He was in conversations to be named CEO,” lawyer Ira P. Rothken said. “His involvement in the company was highly attenuated. There were discussions and he was involved in a promotional video and in brainstorming future projects, but not much else.”
The association for Beatz with the site surfaced recently when he and friends Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs, Kanye West, and Will.i.am appeared in a video together touting the website. The video caused legal problems with the artists’ label, Universal Music Group. The video was four minutes long and was part of the recent December 9 re-launch of the Megaupload website. The video contained only original material which was not owned by UMG, according to Rothken.
The indictment is 72 pages long and claims copyright infringement along with conspiracy to commit money laundering and racketeering. The indictment also claims that Megaupload rewarded its users who uploaded pirated content and never answered complaints regarding copyrights. Executive gains subject to seizure by the government include a Von Dutch Kustom motorcycle, multiple Mercedes-Benz vehicles, a Rolls-Royce Phantom and a jet ski.
The allegations were described as “grotesquely overblown” before Megaupload was shut down.
“We believe the allegations in the indictment are without merit, and the company will vigorously defend itself,” Rothken said.