Megaupload was brought down by the FBI yesterday, accused of breaking piracy laws and costing copyright holders more than US$500 million. The takedown was – notably – achieved without the aid of controversial proposed legislations like SOPA and PIPA, the subject of protests in recent days.
While copyrighted materials in the form of music and TV shows were hosted on the site, Megaupload (like YouTube) removed copyrighted content when it was detected. A large number of people and corporations hosted perfectly legitimate files and backups – all of which are now inaccessible – and they are now suffering needlessly.
Unlike Grooveshark (which has faced similar prosecution) Megaupload was shut down immediately without given a chance to defend itself – whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty?
It's all too easy to see file-sharing sites as evil, but people always forget that file-sharing itself is a perfectly legal and useful tool – it's the actions of certain people that use it which cause problems.
We're not advocating illegal file-sharing by any means, but it's completely wrong to let those who use such systems legally suffer, especially without a fair trial.
All eyes are now on Dropbox, YouSendIt and other similar sites, waiting to see if they will be persecuted in the same heavy-handed manner. The internet is a big place, with many grey areas – and we can only hope that the inconsistencies in legislation and persecution are stamped out.
Internet activist collective Anonymous has already lashed out in response to Megaupload's takedown by bringing down the sites of Universal Music and the Department of Justice (among others). It all looks like the beginning of a gruelling cyber war – one which we hope is resolved in a consistent, fair and reasonable manner.
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