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US files charges against Megaupload in 'largest copyright case'

US prosecutors say that the video-sharing site Megaupload.com cost the US entertainment industry $500 million. Online activists worry the US case could stifle Internet freedoms around the world.

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Supporters of the PIPA and Stop Online Piracy Acts (SOPA) going through Congress argue that those who create entertainment, from novelists to hip-hop artists to movie directors, deserve the legal protective environment that allows them to be paid for their work. Online activists worry that the SOPA and PIPA bills, if enacted, take things too far and would stifle the sharing creativity that is the very essence of the Internet.

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US prosecutors accuse Dotcom of running a virtual mafia, and the Paris paper, Le Monde, quotes an e-mail by a Megaupload employee, showing that the company knowingly skirted the law, creating an environment for law-breaking on an industrial scale.

“We are not pirates,” Le Monde quoted the e-mail as saying. “We provide boats to pirates.”

Following massive online campaigns, several former supporters of new anti-piracy laws had begun to back away from SOPA and PIPA, but the new arrests indicate that US officials feel they have strong enough legislation in place to take action against companies such as Megaupload, even if those companies operate overseas.

The online hacking community, meanwhile, has responded in its own way, effectively shutting down the websites of the White House, the US Department of Justice, as well as the websites for entertainment companies Warner Brothers and Universal Music.

The Guardian quoted a statement from a hackers’ group known as Anonymous explaining their actions in support of Megaupload, posted on the collective’s website.

"We Anonymous are launching our largest attack ever on government and music industry sites. The FBI didn't think they would get away with this did they? They should have expected us."

How five websites are protesting SOPA

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