MegaUpload: The content cartel strikes back

Antipiracy laws too flawed? Send the feds to bust some heads. One way or another, Hollywood will get Uncle Sam to do its dirty work

Last week's arrests at MegaUpload are continuing to send mega-shockwaves across the Webosphere, and it's turning into a mega-mess.

On Thursday, the FBI dropped the hammer on MegaUpload founder Kim Dotcom and seven of his cohorts, alleging they pocketed tens of millions by "incentivizing" illegal file sharing across its cloud storage service.

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Though it's clear from the 72-page indictment that the feds have had their eyes on MegaUpload for some time now, the timing of the bust -- a day after the Web blackout protesting two onerous antipiracy bills -- is a wee bit suspicious.

Like SOPA and PIPA, the bust comes with its own collateral damage. Along with those pirated movies and music, the feds took down noninfringing data from thousands of legit MegaUpload users, who are howling in protest and demanding -- futilely, so far -- the return of their stuff.

That's a bit like renting an apartment and coming home one day to find the police have locked you out and impounded your furniture because your landlord was operating an illegal poker game in the basement.

Picking a crappy Web landlord is not a crime, and you shouldn't have to pay for it with your data. I'm clearly not the only person who feels that way. Anonymous retaliated by launching DDoS attacks against a dozen sites, including the FBI, the U.S. Department of Justice, and Universal Music, taking them offline for several hours. Still, that's like protesting the arrest of your mom by TP-ing the police station.

There's more. In response to the bust, other "cyber locker" services, such as FileSonic and FileServe, have shut down the parts of their services that allow users to share files among themselves. There are unconfirmed reports of these services and others mass-deleting files, in fear they will be targeted by the feds.

Popular, well-respected cloud storage sites like Dropbox and must be wondering if they'll be next. File sharing and collaboration is a key part of the value equation for these services; can we really expect them to police every file shared by every user? And if we do, does that mean users must sacrifice their personal privacy in the process?

Let's all agree that movie piracy is a bad thing. I can still name a half- dozen matters off the top of my head that are more worthy of the FBI's time. Unfortunately, nobody's bribing Congress to put pressure on the feds to investigate Wall Street brokerage firms, for example.

Former Sen. Chris Dodd, now chief media mogul at the MPAA, didn't even bother to drape a veil over the threat he issued to his erstwhile colleagues after they started bailing on SOPA and PIPA. He told Fox News:

Those who count on Hollywood for support need to understand this industry is watching very carefully. ... Don't ask me to write a check for you when you think your job is at risk and then don't pay attention to me when my job is at risk.

Nice. This is the next step in the content cartel's strategy. Suing grandmothers and dead people didn't get the group anywhere; now it wants Uncle Sam to do the dirty work.

The entertainment industry will get what it paid for, one way or another -- if not via legislation, then via police state-style takedowns. Except that it's taxpayers and users who end up paying for it in the long run.

Did MegaUpload get what's coming to them? Who will be next? Post your thoughts below or email me:

This article, "MegaUpload: The content cartel strikes back" was originally published at Follow the crazy twists and turns of the tech industry with Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Field blog, and subscribe to Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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