Today's abrupt shut-down of the popular file-sharing site Megaupload will likely affect one unexpected celebrity: the company's CEO, hip-hop producer Swizz Beatz.
Beatz, who has worked with Jay-Z is married to R&B star Alicia Keys and was the first producer-in-residence at NYU's Clive Davis Department of Recorded Music, was widely reported this afternoon to be the silent partner of Megaupload – a revelation that has surprised the music community (although as MTV notes, his name and title appeared in the "About Us" page of the now-defunct site).
Beatz helped cast the company's controversial promotional video from 2011, in which Will.I.Am, Diddy, Kim Kardashian and Kanye West endorsed the site. Will.I.Am. subsequently sent the site a takedown request and Universal Music Group flagged the video for copyright abuse and it was removed. Beatz has since counter-sued UMG, insisting that he did nothing wrong in asking his friends to appear in the video.
Megaupload was shut down today by federal prosecutors in Virginia following charges against its operators of violating piracy laws, including their refusal to remove copyrighted material from their site in accordance with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. According to the indictment that shut down the site, Megaupload had generated $175 million in income while causing $500 million in losses to its content copyright holders.
Today, the New York Times reported that four of Megaupload's operators, including founder Kim Dotcom (born Kim Schmitz), have been arrested in New Zealand. Three people remain at large in what the grand jury indictment called part of a "mega conspiracy." Beatz was not included on the list and has not made a statement regarding his involvement with the site or the indictment's repercussions for him.
The Times, citing government agencies involved in the indictment, reports this suit is "among the largest criminal copyright cases ever brought by the United States."