Federal authorities Thursday indicted two firms and shut down one of the Web’s most popular sites for sharing illegally pirated material, triggering a quick response from hackers who claimed credit for taking down the Web sites of the Justice Department, Recording Industry Association of America and other media companies in retaliation.
The grand jury indictment, which caps a two-year investigation, charges seven people and Megaupload.com and other related sites with running an international organized criminal enterprise. Investigators said the group generated more than $175 million in income and cost copyright owners more than $500 million.
Justice Department officials said yesterday that the timing of its indictment was coincidental and had nothing to do with a debate on Capitol Hill over a bill that took aim at piracy online.
“This action is among the largest criminal copyright cases ever brought by the United States,” the Justice Department and FBI said in a statement.
Nevertheless, the federal action angered hackers, escalating the growing battle between the Web’s powerbrokers, both legitimate and illicit, and Washington, which has been seeking ways to clamp down on pirated content.