Megaupload Shutdown Means Other Companies Turning Off Useful Services
from the innovation? dept
On Friday, we noted some of the troubling parts of the Megaupload indictment, and how many perfectly legitimate companies did many of the same things that the US government used to suggest that Mega was a evil criminal conspiracy. On Saturday, the NY Times noted that plenty of legitimate companies were getting a bit nervous because of the language in the indictment:
But Megaupload was not the only such service on the Web. Many companies have crowded into the online storage market recently, most of them aimed at consumers and businesses that want convenient ways to get big data files out of their teeming in-boxes, off their devices and into the cloud — perhaps so that friends or co-workers can download them. They include MediaFire, RapidShare, YouSendIt, Dropbox and Box.net. And there are similar services from Amazon, Google and Microsoft.
All of these market themselves as legitimate ways to store content online. But they are inherently ideal for anyone looking to illegitimately upload and share copyrighted video and audio files. Most companies rarely, if ever, inspect individual files to see if the material they store on behalf of users violates copyrights, unless they are notified by someone claiming infringement.
And… by Sunday, reports started spreading of other companies that provide useful services to people who want to legitimately share files… shutting down or limiting those services. For example, FileSonic — one of the most popular cyberlockers — has basically killed itself by no longer allowing sharing, and only allowing personal backup. Another site, Uploaded.to, then blocked all access from the US. A bunch of other services, including FileServe and VideoBB have been killing their affiliate programs (again, which had been a good way for independent musicians to make money).
RIAA supporters are cheering this on — believing that all of these services really focused on infringing content. But for the many, many artists, companies and individuals who used them legitimately, this is pretty troubling. Useful services are being shut down due to an overreaction on the part of the US government.
Again, this is exactly the kind of collateral damage that many of us were worried about. It’s entirely possible (hell, perhaps probable) that the folks behind Megaupload went beyond the confines of the law. And, if that’s true, I expect that they will lose in court. But many of us are quite worried about a few things: the fact that the entire site got completely shuttered despite substantial non-infringing uses… and that it’s now creating massive chilling effects for legitimate and useful services within the US. Separately, as in the case of Uploaded.to, it’s also splintering the internet, by having foreign companies put blocks on US internet users. These kinds of things were exactly what people have been warning about… and yet the US government ignored all those warnings (and probably still doesn’t realize what it’s kicked off here).