from the a-step-forward dept
There’s been lots of anticipation about Kim Dotcom’s new “Mega” service. We’ve mostly held off commenting despite all the speculation and rumors, because, well, they were all speculation and rumors, and Dotcom has a history of hyping things way up. However, Gizmodo apparently got a sneak peak at the service, which is set to launch tomorrow, and has revealed the basic details, claiming that “this service could dismantle copyright forever.” That statement is ridiculous and pure bluster, not at all supported by the service.
From the description, the service does look nice and potentially useful. It’s really just a cloud storage system, not an online Dropbox or Box.net or Google Drive. It has a nicely designed file manager feature. The real “difference” is just that Mega has client-side encryption built in. So, basically, you encrypt anything you put into the Mega storage system before you upload it, and thus even Mega doesn’t know what’s there (mostly) and can’t decrypt it. You could hack together something like this with other services, if you just encrypted stuff yourself before uploading it to other cloud drives. By building it in, however, Mega is clearly adding a significant level of convenience.
All in all, it does look like a pretty nice service, and one that may be worth checking out if you use cloud storage regularly. That said, the claims of destroying copyright seem overblown. If the claim that a file can be shared “with a single right-click” is accurate, then once that link is used, it would be simple for anyone with access to Mega’s log files — including Mega and, potentially, government agents — to decrypt the file and see what’s in it. If that claim is an exaggeration, and a key needs to also be shared separately, then it’s no different than how encrypted data is shared already. And copyright still exists.
There may be some more details to come out once the product is officially launched tomorrow, but if the service is to be used for sharing, as implied, then there has to be a decryption process somewhere. The Gizmodo piece is as bit unclear, but it sounds like this likely involves two Mega users having their local clients talk to each other somehow to share the decrypt code. But, obviously, a government or Mega itself could potentially also be that local client on the other end. Basically, once you’re sharing, the “encryption” issue is still handy, but not a huge deal. And the user may be very liable for infringement.
In the end, it sounds like there are some nice features, and some additional protections from liability for Mega specifically, but I don’t see how this “dismantles copyright” even temporarily, let alone forever. Also, given the way the government likes to interpret things, you can bet that if it wanted to, it will make the case that this use of encryption is a form of “inducement” for infringement as well.
All in all, it looks like an interesting product, though hardly revolutionary.