It seems that while the entire Internet was getting itself into a frothy, protesty rage Wednesday over the proposed anti-piracy legislation known as SOPA, the feds were sitting back just waiting to drop the hammer.
And one day later, they did, going all Eliot Ness on the hugely popular file sharing site MegaUpload.com, shutting it down, seizing its domain name and $50 million in assets, and indicting seven of its executives. It was a serious show of force targeting one of the Web's largest meeting points for swapping often-illegal content.
Shortly afterwards, "hacktivists" reportedly led by the group Anonymous responded by taking down the Web sites for the FBI, Department of Justice and several major entertainment sites.
They may not have intended for the timing to work out the way it did (or did they?) but the end result seemed to be the Department of Justice firing the opening shots in a far-reaching Web war.
Or, in language the targeted netizens may better understand: "All your file sharing sites are belong to us."
MegaUpload is/was basically a file hosting site, a place for people to upload music, TV shows, movies or any other piece of media, for other users to download -- with no money changing hands between any two entities at any time. So, good for the guy who just wants a free copy of Nicki Minaj's 'Super Bass', bad for Nicki Minaj*.
The DOJ's indictment says the site is to blame for more than $500 million in lost revenue for copyright holders,
*at least financially speaking; exposure is another matter altogether.
Yet many musicians were huge fans of the site. In fact, Kanye West, Will.i.am, Alicia Keys, P. Diddy and Mary J. Blige were among a bunch of major artists who made a song about how much they like MegaUpload. (Kim Kardashian is in it too... but is she really an artist?) The video then disappeared after Universal Music Group filed a complaint. Also, MegaUpload's CEO is MegaProducer Swizz Beatz. Huh.
There's also the feeling that authorities are just playing anti-piracy Internet Whack-a-Mole. Shut down this site, the upload/downloaders will just pop up at another site, such as Hulk Share or MediaFire.
And as this all relates back to the SOPA/PIPA battle, Gizmodo makes the point that the smashing of MegaUpload actually helps the Internet cheerleaders who oppose the bill. "Do you hear that, lawmakers? The law as it stands right now was able to kill Megaupload.com, no draconian censorship powers required."
Meanwhile, the FBI and Department of Justice sites are back online now. But the very modern battle they're now waging seems to only just be beginning.
So, you know: Heads-up, Hulk Share.