On Twitter, the founders of Megaupload are being referred to as the Robin Hoods of the Internet: taking music and videos from the rich studios and passing them out to poor netizens everywhere.
But the executives of Megaupload, six of whom were federally indicted Thursday, have become very, very rich in that process. As law enforcement officials present the evidence of a two-year investigation into the file-sharing site, the Web is picking apart the lives of the executives and marveling over the turns in the unfolding news story.
The federal government accused executives at the site of participating in piracy. Just a day after major Internet protests around anti-piracy laws, the U.S. government shut down the site and, with the help of New Zealand authorities arrested the site’s founder, Kim Dotcom who lives in a lavish mansion in Auckland.
Dotcom denies any illegal wrongdoing and within hours of the indictement, the web group Anonymous crashed the Web sites of the Justice Department and Universal Music.
At the center of it all is Dotcom, who legally changed his name. According to New Zealand television station TVNZ, police raided his home early Friday morning where they found 18 luxury vehicles, estimated at $6 million dollars. They also located $11 million in cash in various accounts and government bonds.
His arrest was nothing short of a scene from Hollywood:
The police told TVNZ Dotcom retreated into his mansion, activating electronic locking mechanisms as he went. He finally barricaded himself in a safe room, and the police had to cut their way into it.
His lavish lifestyle in New Zealand was captured by Web developer Elliott Kember on Twitter. Kember drove to the house after hearing about the police raid and photographed the police hauling away the luxury vehicles. Some of which had personalized license plates with the words “Guilty” and “God” on them.
The story also has a dash of real-life Hollywood glamor, thanks in part to the chief executive officer of Megaupload. Swizz Beatz, or Kassem Dean, is married to musician Alicia Keys. He was not named in the indictment, but his high-powered friends seem to be rallying around him all the same. P. Diddy has been tweeting his support, writing, “Call me anytime and I will do anything for you !!!! I love You!”
While the events have the elements of a Hollywood screenplay, the federal indictment is not a fiction. According to The Post’s Sari Horwitz and Cecilia Kang, “Investigators say Megaupload’s executives made more than $175 million through subscription fees and online ads while robbing authors, movie producers, musicians and other copyright holders of more than $500 million.”