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For anyone involved with the media and entertainment business -
online and not - the company Megaupload Limited has been on the
radar for a while now. A couple of weeks ago, this Hong Kong-based
company captured headlines but not for positive reasons. Instead
this company got a lot of free publicity for actions taken against
it by the U.S. Department of Justice.
On January 19, the U.S. Department of Justice seized the
company's 18 domain names and its websites were shut down. The
primary and most popular of Megaupload's websites and services was
megaupload.com. Billed by the company as a way to upload, store and
download files of all types - it had close to 150 million users. So
why would the U.S. Department of Justice be interested in a
file-sharing and storage website?
It all comes down to the content on this and Megaupload's other
sites. Authorities maintain that megaupload.com really was a way
for people to access copyrighted movies, films, television
programs, music and other protected digital content. The
prosecutors state that the company has resulted in copyright
holders losing more than £320 million in revenue.
What is interesting about this case and charges is the timing.
The company was effectively shut down and the two founders (and two
other employees) were arrested on January 19 - just the day before
the SOPA and
PIPA bills were postponed by the U.S. government. These two
bills were created to fight copyright infringement and online
piracy. But due to broad wording and a large degree of public
outcry from companies including Google, Wikipedia, YouTube, and
Reddit, these bills were postponed for further review.
In the wake of the megauploads.com closure, a number of other
file-sharing websites and services have willingly gone offline. And
the trickle-down effect? Upset consumers and users. Yes, there were
a lot of people using megaupload.com to access copyrighted content
and this should be prevented. Online media and entertainment
companies have a right to be reimbursed for the content they
produce. Most of such companies have willingly spent their own
money investing in secure online solutions that enable content
protection and easy access for subscribers.
But what about the people who say they were using megaupload.com
to store legitimate content? There are people who were using this
file-sharing site to simply store content - such as photos, work
files, important documents, and other personal online media. Now
these people cannot access their content - and if they were using
megaupload.com as a back-up or file-sharing mechanism - they
are essentially left out in the cold. And now there are rumors that
all of this content will be destroyed... In the end, the legitimate
user loses out.
So where does this leave everyone? This is where savvy marketers
need to step in. Particularly those behind legitimate file-sharing
and content storage websites/services. It is critical that
companies such as Dropbox get busy and explain to their users that
their content is safe and why. Education needs to start to help
consumers understand the difference between illegal file-sharing
sites and legal ones. A chunk of the megaupload.com users likely
didn't even know about the copyrighted content that was readily
available... and now these people will lose their private and
legitimately uploaded content.
Is the right solution to expect users to pay for all online data
storage - does that make the sites legitimate and legal? How can
companies who really do offer legal cloud storage and file-sharing
services convince consumers to trust them? Copyrighted content
needs to be protected and in a world of booming eCommerce and online
media channels, this is an issue that is not going to disappear.
Megauploads Limited may be shut down, SOPA and PIPA are postponed -
but what is the solution to prevent this from happening again?
Where does the responsibility lie - with the consumer, the service
provider, the media and entertainment companies, with the companies
who design and provide secure online payment systems?
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