Megaupload, one of the largest onilne storage and file delivery services on the Internet, has been shut down due to allegations of piracy. The FBI and the Justice Department, citing some $500 million in lost income of copyright holders from pirated music, films and other media hosted on the site, indicted six defendants, according to a press release. None of them are American citizens. The people named include:

  • Finn Batato, 38, a citizen and resident of Germany, who is the chief marketing officer;
  • Julius Bencko, 35, a citizen and resident of Slovakia, who is the graphic designer;
  • Sven Echternach, 39, a citizen and resident of Germany, who is the head of business development;
  • Mathias Ortmann, 40, a citizen of Germany and resident of both Germany and Hong Kong, who is the chief technical officer, co-founder and director;
  • Andrus Nomm, 32, a citizen of Estonia and resident of both Turkey and Estonia, who is a software programmer and head of the development software division;
  • Bram van der Kolk, aka Bramos, 29, a Dutch citizen and resident of both the Netherlands and New Zealand, who oversees programming and the underlying network structure for the Mega conspiracy websites.

The six, along with the corporations Megaupload Limited and Vestor Limited, have been charged with racketeering conspiracy, conspiring to commit copyright infringement, conspiring to commit money laundering and two substantive counts of criminal copyright infringement. Each count of conspiracy to commit racketeering and conspiracy to commit money laundering could land the defendants as much as 20 years in prison; the charge of conspiracy to commit copyright infringement and each of the substantive charges of criminal copyright infringement could net them an additional five years per count.

This news comes one day after many massive websites such as Wikipedia, Tumblr and Reddit “blacked out” their sites in protest of both the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA), two bills introduced to Congress that would alter the manner in which the Internet is regulated in the United States. At press time, it's unlikely that SOPA will pass, with many members of Congress voicing opposition to the bill and President Obama promising a veto if the bill were to pass both Houses and reach his desk. The Senate is scheduled to vote on PIPA January 24.

UPDATE 6:28 PM ET: Prominent hackers group Anonymous has fired back in retaliation of Megaupload's shutdown, shutting down the websites of the Department of Justice, MPAA, RIAA, the US Copyright Office and Universal Music Group. More info is here.