Many of the organizations suing – or paying to help others sue – are "pirate parties:" political organizations in some European countries that grew out of content-sharing networks to become small but vocal advocates for privacy, customer rights and open-access to information.
How big a pirate do you have to be before the FBI will take you down? No one knows.
The FBI, after investigating MegaUpload's business and activities for two years, swooped down on MegaUpload sites in the U.S. Jan. 20 with more than 20 warrants, while police in New Zealand arrested MegaUpload founder Kim Dotcom and several other MegaUpload employees on behalf of U.S. authorities.
The FBI charged the MegaUpload Seven with knowingly creating a harbor for large-scale trading of illegally copied, copyrighted files – movies, music and games or applications, primarily.
The FBI used the participation of American customers and the presence of some MegaUpload data in U.S.-based data centers to demonstrate their jurisdiction and right to make the raid and to justify shutting the whole operation down even though the allegedly illegal (OK: Yes, very illegal) content made up only a minority of the total data and total downloads from MegaUpload.
Like an abandoned house used primarily to sell or use crack, MegaUpload was declared a criminal operation and shut down in toto – not just in the parts that were actually functioning en pirato.
Fortunately for the FBI, there is no standard for what constitutes "enough" pirate content to shut down a whole web site; it appears to depend on how aggressive the prosecutor is and how pushy and paranoid the copyright-owner's lobbyists can afford to be.
It's an odd coincidence that a two-year investigation would culminate in a high-profile raid just days before a big, controversial bill that would add teeth (the assumption of guilt, rather than innocence, for example) to copyright protection laws came up for a vote in the Senate.
Meanwhile, on the side of the political aisle that got pantsed, wedgied and swirlied over blatant attempts to suck up to big donors in the entertainment business by giving them license to violate other people's Constitutional rights to free speech, freedom from illegal search and seizure and to preserve whatever pathetic remnant of their own privacy is left.