Megaupload Take-Down, Copyright and IP, and Why SOPA / PIPA Are Still Bad Law

There has been much in the news the past few days on the take-down of Megaupload.

The US government dropped a nuclear bomb on “cyberlocker” site Megaupload today, seizing its domain names, grabbing $50 million in assets, and getting New Zealand police to arrest four of the site’s key employees, including enigmatic founder Kim Dotcom. In a 72-page indictment unsealed in a Virginia federal court, prosecutors charged that the site earned more than $175 million since its founding in 2005, most of it based on copyright infringement.

As for the site’s employees, they were paid lavishly and they spent lavishly. Even the graphic designer, 35-year-old Slovakian resident Julius Bencko, made more than $1 million in 2010 alone.

The indictment goes after six individuals, who between them owned 14 Mercedes-Benz automobiles with license plates such as “POLICE,” “MAFIA,” “V,” “STONED,” “CEO,” “HACKER,” GOOD,” “EVIL,” and—perhaps presciently—”GUILTY.” The group also had a 2010 Maserati, a 2008 Rolls-Royce, and a 1989 Lamborghini. They had not one but three Samsung 83″ TVs, and two Sharp 108″ TVs. Someone owned a “Predator statue.” Motor bikes, jet skis, artwork, and even 60 Dell servers could all be forfeit to the government if it can prove its case against the members of the “Mega Conspiracy.”

The case is a major one, involving international cooperation between the US, Hong Kong, the Netherlands, the UK, Germany, Canada, and the Philippines. In addition to the arrests, 20 search warrants were executed today in multiple countries.

Why the Feds Smashed Megaupload

This came at a time when millions of Internet user and thousands of Internet companies, many major entities such as Google, Twitter, Facebook, and Wikipedia, had just executed a 24 hour protest against the SOPA / PIPA bills under consideration in the House and Senate. Those bills came under intense criticism primarily because they contained legislation that would try to enforce how the underlying technologies of the Net, especially DNS, the domain naming system, work, and corrupt it; they would destroy the concept of due process through judicial review and create a power of accusation and enforcement by the corporate oligarchy; and they would create law that would be a major steping stone to massive censorship of free expression on the Internet.

Many thoughtful commentators on these issues, who were pretty much universally opposed to SOPA / PIPA, criticized the Megaload take-down. A prime example by a consistently thoughtful commentator on Internet Privacy and Network Neutrality wrote on the isuse here: The Megaupload Mega-Mess: When Innocents Are Crushed Their criticism actually related to the criticisms of SOPA / PIPA, and focused on the fact that not all users of Megaupload were committing criminal acts. But because of the total shutdown of the site, legitimate users suddenly found themselves cut off from their files which they were storing on the site’s servers and domain.

It seems pretty clear the guys running Megaupload were major criminals. Just read the news reports about the literally millions of dollars they were sucking in, and look at the pictures of their mansion, the luxury cars, the whole nine yards. The news is chock full of screen shots of what are clearly contemporary major movies that have been pirated and are being sold for download on the site. That there was major criminal activity and theft of IP by this site hardly seems in doubt.

The bad part of this action remains, though, and that is that those users of the site who were NOT committing crimes were caught up in the action, and lost access to their files.

There is moment to add to the discussion of these issues here, I think, an opportunity to make a very strong point against the current SOPA / PIPA legislation.

Namely, the Megaupload action was taken under existing law, using existing due process, warrants, and investigative procedures.

It is for that reason an illustration of precisely why the SOPA / PIPA overarching legislation is so dangerous. It would obviate and bypass the law, pretty much, and put power of investigation, accusation, and shut-down totally in the hands of the corporate oligarchy, simply bypassing due process and the judicial review process completely.

If any legislation is needed, it is just legislation to reinforce that all such actions must follow the existing legal process, and that further, guidelines and procedures need to be put in place to insure that innocent users, domains, whatever, are not brought down in the process of bringing down the real criminals. Which is precisely what SOPA / PIPA would do, with its insane dabbling in the DNS system. What we don’t need is legislation by idiots in Congress who have no frickin’ idea how the technology works legislating how to use it.

Anyway, just my thoughts. Yes, piracy and copyright violation is a problem. No, we do not need stupid laws passed by bought and paid for scum like Sen. Dodd, whose motto right now seems to be “once bought, always bought” by MPAA.

What we need is funding for staff in the government enforcement agencies to monitor and followup and enforce existing law.

Oh, and we also did not need the copyright length extensions beyond the lifetimes of the creators. They are destroying, well, have destroyed, the whole point of copyright, which was reserving benefits to the author during their lifetime. Oh, I forgot. Corporations are now people. So next up we will probably see Congress trying to pass eternal copyright for corporation’s ownership of the intellectual properties they have acquired from individuals.

Somehow I now feel even worse for having thought this through logically to that point.


Author: Ron