On January 19, 2012, MegaUpload.com, one of the Internet world’s largest file-sharing websites was shut down by federal agents. Several executives and the website’s founder have been charged with violating piracy laws. The feds aren’t finished, either; they’ve prepared indictments and are ready to round up as many pirates as possible.
The indictment accuses Megaupload.com of taking in excess of $500 million from copyright holders. The lost revenue is attributed to piracy of films and other downloadable content. The indictment was unceremoniously unsealed the day after Craigslist, Wikipedia and other protesting sites had closed down in protest of SOPA and PIPA, two wild and crazy legislative proposals designed to put the kibosh on illegal downloading.
Before the Megaupload Apocalypse
The website’s ills actually began back in the early part of 2011 when the FBI tossed a line to the New Zealand police. The FBI requested that the Kiwis’ assist with an investigation of MegaUpload.com. In late October, the Motion Pictures Association of America (MPAA) put MegaUpload, The Pirate Bay and the Russian equivalent of Facebook, VKontakte, on its long list of “notorious websites.” In all, nearly 20 “rogue” websites were included on the list. The stage was set for a musical drama in the high Cs.
The Storm of Controversy Starts
On December 9, 2011, the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) and a slew of artists supporting the pirate lifestyle and specifically MegaUpload.com recorded a video, a We Are the World (of pirates), if you will. Stars raising the Jolly Roger included Alicia Keys, Will.i.am, Snoop Dogg, P Diddy, Mary J Blige, Jamie Foxx, Kim Kardashian and the always cheerful Kanye West. The very next day, on December 10, UMG (Universal Music Group) had the video pulled from YouTube.
Let the Trials and Errors Begin
On December 12, MegaUpload.com founder Kim Dotcom filed suit against UMG for UMG’s infringement upon Mega’s alleged infringement. Megaupload’s CEO, David Robb, averred that nothing about the video belonged to UMG. All the performing artists had agreed to support and endorse Megaupload.com and eagerly appeared in the video. Everything was done in full compliance of the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act). As far as Robb was concerned, the UMG didn’t have a wooden leg to stand on in its bid to keep the video from being shown on YouTube or on any other tube.
On December 16, UMG stuck its corporate tongue out at Megaupload.com and said, “You can’t touch us.” UMG defended its position, insisting that they hadn’t broken any DMCA rules by pulling the video from YouTube.
You see, UMG and YouTube have a private agreement that existed beyond the range of the DMCA. Within the scope of said agreement, YouTube’s CMA (Content Management System), UMG has permission to pull anything it wants. It doesn’t matter if there’s an infringement or not. In fact, the removed video doesn’t even have to belong to UMG.
In the 18-page filing, UMG didn’t even bother to suggest that the video was an infringement upon anybody or anything. UMG outlined its agreement with YouTube and that’s the end of the story. We’ll take our ball and go home.
Uncle Sam I Am
On December 21, the seas of discontent were once again stirred by the US government. The USTR (United States Trade Representative) listed over a dozen websites allegedly involved in counterfeiting and piracy. Coincidentally and conveniently, the entire list was solely based on input from lobbying groups like the MPAA and RIAA. Many of the websites are not even in the U.S. They’re in Sweden, China, Russia and other places that crave the U.S. government’s loving involvement.
On December 26, Megaupload.com told UMG “Lucy, you have some ‘splainin’ to do.” Papers were filed to force UMG to provide legitimate reasons for the video take-down. The filing by the file-hosting service made it very clear that it would go to great lengths to dig up the dirt on what precisely has been going on between Vimeo, YouTube, UMG and other entities that were involved in the take-down of Mega’s video.
That takes us to the present.
The Beginning of the End?
The future of Megaupload.com as well as other file sharing websites remains in question. Tragically marooned in the Bay of Bummer and landlocked on the shoals of What do We do Now, the remains of one of the Internet’s former most popular file-hosting services lie in ruins.