This weekend, one of the biggest file-sharing sites on the internet – MegaUpload was shut down, its’ top officers arrested and its assets seized. Numerous articles that go into detail everywhere. Here is a snippet from Ars Technica:
The indictment charges that the “Mega conspiracy” has for more than five years operated websites that willfully distributed pirated movies, often before their theatrical release, and other illegal copies of copyrighted works, earning the company over $175 million in illegal profits through advertising revenue. Megaupload is also charged with money laundering by paying uploaders through an “uploader reward program,” and paying other companies to host the pirated content.
I would tend to call myself an ‘anti-piracy zealot’, having been in heated debates about the ruins I have seen done to PC and PSP gaming through the years. So on one level I am glad to see this course of action – a multi-national effort to stop an organization that sought to operate outside of any single jurisdiction so they could flout laws with copyright infringement, IP theft, money laundering and racketeering.
Yet I was stunned at the efficacy of the MegaUpload takedown. This is a government that has been so thoroughly useless, with Democrats unable to do much of ANYTHING even when they had the majority, and Republicans actively trying to block whatever Democrats wanted … and suddenly they are able to snap into action and make something happen? How can that be? The answer is simple- Money. Both parties are united in their love of the millions being pushed their way in an election season as well as with the potential glory of catching evil-doers looking to steal from American businesses. It seems so easy…
But there is a problem – our system of government was meant to be based on a majority ruling but also upon the protection of minority voices. I have expressed my concern about the growing authoritarianism based on corporate interests, our long involvement in wars allowing militarism to become a norm, and a majoritarianism that squashes unpopular speech.
But it also occurred to me why I knew the name ‘Megaupload’ – there is a pending case between Megaupload and UMG about a song commissioned by Megaupload with Kanye West and Mary J. Blige appearing in a video. As noted in the associated article from December:
But blacklisting MegaUpload on the grounds of piracy seems difficult when artists like Diddy, will.i.am, Alicia Keys, Kanye West, Game, Chris Brown, Macy Gray, and Snoop Dogg are now its biggest and most visible champions. After all, these are the biggest products the majors have to offer, yet they are now blatantly assuming the opposite of the RIAA party line.
Megaupload itself apparently posted that they are trying to run a legitimate business and take down files immediately upon notification … something that many find laughable, and is the same ludicrous claim made by GrooveShark despite evidence to the contrary.
But at the same time it seems pretty clear that at least SOME people were using the site to host legitimate files. Some of those files were the correctly copyrighted property of other people unassociated with the nefarious actions of the founders of the service. At what point does it become acceptable to destroy the copyrighted works of some to protect those of others? Obviously, when the protection is applied to those paying the bills.
Now we are reading that OTHER locker sites have closed access or closed off to US IP addresses. The reason seems obvious – they don’t want to be ‘next in line’. In some cases it is quite likely because they are operating a similar operation MegaUpload … but what about those who are simply afraid of becoming ‘guilty by association’?
I am familiar with a few cloud storage sites: MediaFire, DropBox, SugarSync, and so on. Two different games I have been beta testing on through the years have utilized MediaFire recently, switching away from private FTP hosting. With MediaFire, I click the link they provide, enter the password we get as beta testers, and grab the file.
DropBox, SugarSync and others act as virtual drives for me, but I have also had work files shared over those sites, and it works similarly to MediaFire – I am not opened up to someone else’s entire drive, just the specified file or files.
My point? I am willing to bet that ALL of those sites from MediaFire to SugarSync to DropBox and beyond are LOADED with illegally downloaded materials. I can also say emphatically that I have loads of LEGAL materials there. And, since the games I am testing will become commercial products, that means that fully legal copyrighted works exist there as well.
My first question is this: If we celebrate MegaUpload, then soon celebrate Rapidshare, FileSonic, Upload.to, and others … will we still be celebrating when DropBox is taken down?
And my other question is: does the right of the RIAA/MPAA to NOT have their files on these sites trump my right TO have my legal files on them?
What are your thoughts on any or all of this?