The head of a popular file-hosting site has been taken into custody in Auckland along with three others, after being charged with ‘running an international organised criminal enterprise’ by the US Justice Department.
37-year-old Kim Dotcom, aka Kim Schmitz, is the founder of MegaUpload, a website which allowed users to upload and download music and video files.
The site, currently inactive, has attracted attention in the past, using high-profile artists such as Will.I.Am, Chris Brown and Kanye West to argue for its legitimacy as a file transfer service.
Dotcom is a resident of both New Zealand and Hong Kong, where MegaUpload is based. He is also a dual citizen of Finland and Germany. The other people taken into custody in Auckland were chief marketing officer Finn Batato, chief technical officer, co-founder and director Mathias Ortmann, and programmer Bram van der Kolk. Three more accomplices remain at large.
According to a statement from the Justice Department, "For more than five years the conspiracy has operated websites that unlawfully reproduce and distribture infringing copies of copyrighted works, including movies – often before their theatrical release – music, television programs, electronic books, and business and entertainment software on a massive scale.
"The conspirators allegedly earned more than (US)$175 million in illegal profits through advertising revenue and selling premium memberships.”
MegaUpload is advertised as having more than 150 million registered users, 50 million daily visitors and accounting for 4% of total traffic on the internet.
The arrests come just a day after the internet community united in protest against US legislation giving authorities more power to shut down ‘rogue’ websites.