The Circuit: Megaupload seizure prompts retaliation; Republican candidates pan SOPA; Verizon, Comcast

LEADING THE DAY: Federal officials shut down the file-sharing site Megaupload Thursday, charging seven of the site’s executives with criminal copyright infringements, racketeering and money laundering, The Washington Post reported.

In retaliation for the site’s shutdown, members of the loose hacking collective Anonymous targeted several Web sites including the Justice Department, Universal Music, the Motion Picture Association of America and the Federal Bureau of Investigation with denial-of-service attacks. The group also vowed to target lawmakers who have expressed their support for the Stop Online Piracy Act.

Republican candidates come out against SOPA: In a CNN debate Thursday night, all of the Republican candidates said that they do not support the Stop Online Piracy Act, one day after Web sites such as Wikipedia and Google encouraged users to tell Congress members not to back the bills.

Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney said that the law is “far too intrusive, far too expensive and far too threatening to freedom of speech and movement of information across the Internet.”

While the bills have had bi-partisan support in the past, Republicans have been quicker to withdraw their backing following the highly-publicized Web protests, and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich made comments that attempted to cast the issue in a partisan light.

Verizon, Comcast: Verizon Wireless and Comcast released a filing submitted to the Federal Communications Commission about the companies’ deal on spectrum and commercial agreements. Public interest groups disagreed with the companies’ assertion that their marketing agreement to sell each other’s services should not be considered as part of the spectrum deal that is subject FCC review.

In a statement, Public Knowledge’s legal director Harold Feld said, “[No]one should accept the companies’ claim that the arrangements are outside of the FCC’s jurisdiction.  They clearly are. We expect the Commission to evaluate these arrangements in the context of the spectrum deal to determine how the entire transaction will affect competition and the public interest.”

FCC’s Paul de Sa to leave: The Federal Communications Commission announced Thursday that Paul de Sa, the Chief of the Office of Strategic Planning and Policy Analysis, will leave the commission in February. De Sa has been in the position since 2009, working with academics and other experts on technology policy issues such as broadband adoption.

Google misses earnings estimates: Google reported disappointing earnings Thursday, after many analysts predicted that this would be the company’s most profitable quarter in history. Slowing ad sales and lower advertising prices were to blame for the lower-than-expected figures. Google shares fell around 9 percent in extended trading, The Associated Press reported. The company reported that it earned $2.7 billion in the fourth quarter, a slight increase over the $2.5 billion in earnings it reported at the same time last year.

Google chief executive Larry Page seemed unfazed by the latest numbers in a conference call to investors, saying that he was “very happy” with the results.

Microsoft earnings top expectations: The earnings report from Microsoft topped analyst expectations despite slow PC sales worldwide, The Associated Press reported. The company’s strong quarter was largely supported by demand for software and services and strong holiday sales of the Xbox gaming console and Kinect gaming peripheral.

Microsoft reported that revenue rose 5 percent over the same period last year for a total of $20.89 billion.

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.

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