Earlier this week, file-sharing service Megaupload.com was shut down and the executives at the company was arrested. The domain name was seized and the cars that the executives bought using revenues from MegaUpload was repossessed. All of this was done without the need for SOPA and PIPA. However TechDirt’s Mike Masnick points out that there are concerns about what the Department of Justice considers as evidence for criminal behavior.
The FBI worked with law enforcement agencies in Hong Kong, Canada, the Netherlands, and New Zealand to arrest the executives without. According to the indictment, the following reasons were used for making the arrests:
1. MegaUpload did not have a site search, which was used in the context that copyright infringers could easily find material. This reason did not make much sense to me.
2. The government pointed out that if certain files weren’t downloaded in a certain amount of time, then they would be deleted. “The indictment presents this as evidence that the service is mainly for infringement, because it potentially precludes the idea that the site is used for long-term backup. Of course, that falsely assumes that long-term backup is the only legitimate use of a cyberlocker. But that might not be the case at all. The service could (and is) used to just distribute large files in a directed, short-term effort. If anything, the fact that files are deleted after they’re done being shared highlights a key legal function of the site: it was used by people to exchange large files once or twice, since they’re too big to share via email attachment,” wrote Masnick.
3. The government said that certain uploaders were “paid” for putting up infringing content. However there are a lot of viral videos that are popular, but not because of infringement.
4. The government pointed out that MegaUpload’s top 100 list did not actually list the top 100 downloads of the website, meaning that they removed files that were infringing copyright from the list. Likely, MegaUpload removed those files from the list because they did not want to be charged with inducement not because they were conspiring.
The main point here is that the government does not necessarily need piracy bills for support in order to take down websites that supposedly infringe upon content as evidenced by what they did with MegaUpload. However their evidence needs to be entirely clear for what they are trying to accomplish when taking these websites down. In the case of MegaUpload, they will now need to show download records to the courts to prove that MegaUpload is responsible for $175 million worth of pirated copyrighted content being generated for the owners of the website. That number does not shock me especially considering that MegaUpload founder Kim “Dotcom” lived in a $30 million mansion and because the executives of the website spent hundreds of thousands of dollars just on their cars.
I’m not entirely sympathetic towards the MegaUpload.com executives because I’m sure that if they checked their download logs, they would notice that most of the files being downloaded were copyright infringing and the government has instant message logs from employees proving that. Any business that profits from that should be prepared with dealing with the consequences.
Websites like YouTube knew that allowing copyrighted content to their website was not a good long-term way to survive so they worked out deals with the MPAA and RIAA. ThePirateBay knew what consequences were coming their way too. The size of their house and what cars they drove should not have been a top priority.