On Megaupload and copyright law
The following originated as a (really long) comment on a friend’s Facebook status. I decided to blog it too. :)
The MPAA and RIAA and similar organizations would like you to believe that Megaupload is a site completely devoted to wholesale piracy of copyrighted works. This is simply untrue. Megaupload is in fact sort of a digital locker service — think Dropbox, but more public and with a better web interface. When a user gets an account on Megaupload, they can use it to conveniently send very large files (like, the kind that are too big to fit in an email attachment) to their friends, family, and coworkers without having to set up their own FTP server or something. For instance, my uncle uses Mediafire (a similar site) to schlep around large zip files of digitized family photos.
Unfortunately, some people have leveraged Megaupload to commit piracy of movies and music. Hey look, I can throw a large file on here and let other people download it, guess what, I have a large file right here that just so happens to be an avi of Star Wars, sweet, throw it up there. I’m not going to debate copyright law here, but I *will* suggest that the federal government issuing a takedown notice for Megaupload because lots of people use it for piracy is like the federal government seizing everyone’s cars because sometimes they serve as getaway vehicles in bank robberies.
Okay, so maybe I will say a few words about copyright law. In the beginning, copyright law was meant to stimulate producers of intellectual property — give people some protection, the thinking goes, and they’ll be incentivized to create more cool stuff. I ask you to consider whether or not the takedown of sites like Megaupload truly promotes the creation of intellectual property. I suggest that it does not; in fact, actions like these are more likely to have a chilling effect on internet entrepreneurs, as they will have to hire legal counsel at the outset to make sure their thing can’t possibly be construed as promoting piracy. If you had a cool idea that you could use to help people move files that were too big to email, but you were afraid that you’d be charged with “conspiracy to commit racketeering, copyright infringement, and money laundering,” would you actually throw time and money at your idea to try to get it off the ground?
TL;DR: The federal takedown of Megaupload, which even the FBI will admit is targeting “the misuse of a public content storage and distribution site,” and I emphasize the word “misuse,” runs counter to the original aims of copyright law.
(Quotes taken from this PCWorld article.)