Friday, January 20, 2012

MegaUpload shutdown by "fibbies" may help show that SOPA, PIPA are not "needed" so much

Federal authorities have shut down a site called MegaUpload, which the government says was set up primarily to facilitate piracy and money laundering, in a recent indictment.  The shutdown occurred by seizing physical assets, including servers in Washington DC and Asburn, VA.  The CNN story is here

The Justice Department and universal music sites were attacked with denial of service, in a widely reported story. 

The US government (and probably ICE or Customs) apparently had jurisdiction to take action, without the need to impose a secondary liability for policing links or payments, as is feared with the proposed Protect-IP and SOPA legislation. It's important that the government was able to act in concert with countries overseas without SOPA. 

The Senate has reportedly put off a planned Jan 24 vote on PIPA/Protect-IP.  Over 35 Senators have spoken out against it (it takes 41 to defeat it).

MegaUpload is still marked “green” by McAfee, and attempt to go to it simply hangs (I expected a Customs intercept).

The Justice Department site was working normally Friday morning. But it does not yet mention the action against MegaUpload. 

Nate Anderson has a perspective on Ars Technica as to why the US acted so drastically against MegaUpload, here.

This morning, a CNN commentator offered the speculation that the feds really could bring such action against YouTube if the fibbies (John Grisham’s term) really wanted to.  That’s scary.

There are other YouTube videos that claim that some in Hollywood actually used MegaUpload. This is indeed an ironic development the day after the SOPA Blackout.

LATER TODAY, I picked up a printed copy of American Prospect, Jan.-Feb. 2012, and found a detailed article by Rob Fischer on p. 26 on the ICE enforcement efforts and some more discussion of SOPA and PIPA. The article gave details about the prosecution of Ninja Video and later sports streaming site operator Brian McCarthy in Houston.  The long title of the article is "A Ninja in our Sites: An aggressive federal enforcement effort targets online piracy--and exposes the clash between copyright protection and free speech", link here.  Ironically, I discovered this in a Barnes and Noble regular bookstore, paid in a conventional manner (held up by cash register software problems), on the way to a conventional AMC movie.   I still like conventional hardcopy print to look at sometimes.

Ninja had streamed a lot of stuff -- movies, foreign news feeds, TV episodes -- free, and some of the content would have been hard for visitors to find even when they wanted to pay for it, as I would. (One legal problem, as pointed out by the article, is that Ninja actually uploaded the stuff, so DMCA Safe Harbor couldn't apply. Illegal stream-site operators have gone for years before the fibbies come knocking at the door, but when they come, it's brutal.  They bust in.)  Media content owners are enraged when streaming site operators earn advertising revenue on their content even while giving it away, which is one reason why SOPA purported to go after secondary users -- advertisers and payment processors.

Update: Feb. 4

The Washington Times published an op-ed by Jack Maes (McLean, VA) in which it is maintained that many people had legally uploaded their own content to MegaUpload (including doctoral dissertations) and lost it.  The link is here. One could say that ordinary users should beware that they link up with reputable services.  But MegaUpload claims it had tried to enforce TOS against infringement.  Rolling Stone has a story by Steve Knopper on Feb 3 here

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