Thursday, January 19, 2012

DoJ takes down Megaupload over piracy claims

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Megaupload logo

Well, this is troubling. Just as the Internet was collectively pissing its pants at the thought of SOPA/PIPA, the Department of Justice jumped the gun and pulled the plug on Megaupload over claims of copyright infringement:

One of the world’s most popular file-sharing sites was shuttered Thursday, and its founder and several company officials were accused of facilitating millions of illegal downloads of films, music and other content.

An indictment accused of costing copyright holders at least $500 million in lost revenue. The indictment was unsealed one day after websites including Wikipedia and Craigslist shut down in protest of two congressional proposals intended to make it easier for authorities to go after websites with pirated material, especially those with headquarters and servers overseas.

Megaupload is based in Hong Kong, but some of the alleged pirated content was hosted on leased servers in Ashburn, Va., which gave federal authorities jurisdiction, the indictment said.

The lawsuit includes accusations such as “conspiracy to commit money laundering” and “racketeering”, which makes it sound like they’re just throwing anything they can at the courts to see what will stick. Now, it’s obviously true that Megaupload is (or was) used by more than a few for sharing copyrighted material, but one would hope that even the government’s anti-piracy attack dogs would display some measure of perspective and consideration when going after a networking service used by millions for all sorts of perfectly legit operations. But it seems that blindly tearing the entire thing to the ground and penalizing countless innocent users is the closest thing to a judicious approach they know of, so I suppose we’re out of luck at the moment until the courts decide.

At any rate, it certainly is revealing that the DoJ decided to go after Megaupload just as the general public was alerted to the dangers of pending Internet censorship disguised as counter-piracy measures. The government claims to require more power over the Internet and “rogue sites” in order to curb illegal filesharing, yet here they are, breaking absolutely no sweat in shuttering one of the biggest websites on the Web and hauling its owners to court on those very grounds of copyright violation. As Mike Masnick at Techdirt notes, “Not only does it undermine the argument for PIPA/SOPA, but it raises significant questions about whether or not the feds already have too much censorship power.

(via @BreakingNews)