Swizz Beatz' Megaupload.com shut down by Department of Justice

Half-Puerto Rican rapper Swizz Beatz (aka Kasseem Dean) appears to be the CEO of  website Megaupload.com, which was shut down yesterday by the Department of Justice and cited in a federal indictment in one of the largest criminal copyright cases ever brought by the United States.

Hacker group Anonymous immediately retaliated and suceeded in crashing the sites of the Department of Justice, the Motion Picture Association of America, and Universal Music Group. Beatz was not named in any federal papers and does not seem to own stake in the company, but he did help promote the website at its inception. In an ironic twist, though Megaupload is being accused of pirating copyrighted material like music, movies and videos, many celebs and musicians endorsed the site including, Kanye West, Kim Kardashian, and rappers P. Diddy and Will.i.am.

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I have to say, I can sort of understand where Anonymous is coming from. The timing seems a little fishy, coming on the heels of the huge Internet protest led by Wikipedia to block the bills known as the Protect IP Act (PIPA) in the Senate and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the House--which happen to deal with just the kind of copyright infringement Megaupload.com is being charged with.

It's a spot on example of what a lot of folks are afraid of will happen if these kinds of bills pass. At this point, it seems like a pissing contest between the DoJ, anarchist hackers and some of the Internet's most powerful sites. Megaupload.com was listed as the 13th most influential website on the Internet, and got about 50 million hits a month--um, that's sort of a big deal.

It's going to be fascinating to see how this power struggle plays out. While I understand that the DoJ is trying to protect copyrighted material, it seems like the era of the Internet has ushered in a new way for consumers to interact with content. This involves cutting out the middle man and sure, this will piss off the likes of Universal Music and the Motion Picture Association of America, but in the end, us the consumers and the content creators are going to have to figure out a way to share the music, movies and videos we all love.

I advocate for Radiohead's strategy. They released their much anticipated seventh album "In Rainbows" as a digital download and had their fans pay what they could. You know what happened? Fans paid what they felt was a fair price and in the end, the average amount spent by consumers for the album was $10--and as opposed to Radiohead getting just cents on the dollar like they would have if they had released their album through a corporate record label, they were able to receive 100% of the profits.

That's what these corporations are really afraid of, and they should be. The industries that have grown around peddling wares of the creative class to the average consumer are going to continue becoming more and more obsolete as the world wide web provides ways of artists directly interacting with their fans, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.

 Image via chicagofabulousblog.com/flick