WASHINGTON—Seven individuals and two corporations have been charged in the United States with running an international organized criminal enterprise allegedly responsible for massive worldwide online piracy of numerous types of copyrighted works through Megaupload.com and other related sites, generating more than $175 million in criminal proceeds and causing more than half a billion dollars in harm to copyright owners, the U.S. Justice Department and FBI announced today.This action is among the largest criminal copyright cases ever brought by the United States and directly targets the misuse of a public content storage and distribution site to commit and facilitate intellectual property crime.
The individuals and two corporations—Megaupload Limited and Vestor Limited—were indicted by a grand jury in the Eastern District of Virginia on Jan. 5, 2012, and charged with engaging in a racketeering conspiracy, conspiring to commit copyright infringement, conspiring to commit money laundering, and two substantive counts of criminal copyright infringement. The individuals each face a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison on the charge of conspiracy to commit racketeering, five years in prison on the charge of conspiracy to commit copyright infringement, 20 years in prison on the charge of conspiracy to commit money laundering, and five years in prison on each of the substantive charges of criminal copyright infringement.
The indictment alleges that the criminal enterprise is led by Kim Dotcom, aka Kim Schmitz, and Kim Tim Jim Vestor, 37, a resident of both Hong Kong and New Zealand. Dotcom founded Megaupload Limited and is the director and sole shareholder of Vestor Limited, which has been used to hold his ownership interests in the Mega-affiliated sites.