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January 20, 2012
Last night filesharing site Megaupload was taken offline by the US Justice Department. Despite being based in Hong Kong with owners who reside in New Zealand it was a US agency that took the site down. Immediately, all files stored on Megaupload were offline, property of the US Justice Department, and unavailable to all the site’s users. All files, both legal and not.
I believe that when future generations look back at internet laws, this will be “the shot heard ’round the world”. Much like when Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand was killed this will be the key moment in the US Government’s attempts to police the entire internet.
With the recent hullabaloo around the US Congress SOPA and PIPA laws it has often been said that such legislation will have a chilling effect on innovation. This will have a negative impact on job growth in the technology sector in a time when the US needs new jobs the most. It turns out the government didn’t need SOPA or PIPA to have that impact, as the takedown of Megaupload will strike at the heart of innovation.
I have been a user of Megaupload as well as other similar services such as Rapidshare. I have used these for the sites’ intended legal purposes–the sharing of files too large for e-mail. On the podcasts I produce a single show can be upwards of 4GB, enough to crash even the heartiest of mail servers. When doing video production the files are larger still. These services provided a cheap and legal way for me to collaborate with my partners across the globe.
But when the Justice Department shut down Megaupload all files were immediately taken offline. For the Justice Department this was the intended effect as all illegal files hosted on the site were removed. However, many users who used the sites legally lost their files as well. These users may have used the sites for collaboration on large files as I did, or as their personal “cloud” backup source. No matter the use, the files are likely gone forever.
This will undoubtedly have an immediate chilling effect on technological progression. Thanks to the advent of HD video, lossless audio, eBooks, high resolution digital cameras, and every other digital device used on a daily basis, the need to store and back-up large files grows. As portability of data becomes paramount with the use of tablet computers, the internet seemed the perfect solution. Referred to as “the cloud” internet storage seemed the perfect solution for the growing need for files to be available and portable. Users choosing the online solution Google Docs instead of the disk-based Microsoft Office is one example of cloud migration. Another is offered by Amazon.com who, on their cloud drive landing page, state that if you put your files on their drive you need “Never worry about losing your files again“.
Now we know that is not true.
Megaupload, like Amazon’s cloud drive, allowed users to upload their files for backup. These can be any files, be it the novel they worked on in their spare time, the pictures of their trip to the beach, or a pirated movie downloaded illegally. Because the US Department of Justice felt too many illegal movies were stored on Megaupload the site was taken down. This takedown had extra hurdles due to the international nature of the site. What would be the effect if the Justice Department felt Amazon, a US based company, had users uploading files illegally and sharing passwords to get them?
I had personally been looking at cloud storage solutions. As my shows take several gigabytes of data each, I have terrabytes of data that I need backed up in case of a lightning strike, disk failure, or home fire. The cloud backup seemed the perfect solution, but now I don’t feel as safe. Files stored on the cloud anywhere in the world can go away at any time through the over-reaching actions of the US Government.
If I feel this way as an individual user, surely businesses looking at cloud storage would take this as a lesson as well This single action will have a chilling effect on cloud storage solutions across the board and, as such, growth in that sector of the tech market will slow. The more the US Government embarks on these global raids at the behest of the Hollywood corporations’ lobbyists the worse the impact will be.
Further, I believe the timing of this strike against Megaupload was not coincidental. Two days ago thousands of sites (including all Venganza Media sites) went dark to protest the SOPA/PIPA legislation, leading to suspension of both bills in Congress. But while the headlines may tout a victory for a free internet, the takedown of Megaupload sends a message that the US government does not need SOPA/PIPA to police the entire internet.
With the takedown of Megaupload the next step to an internet policed by the US Government at the behest of Hollywood corporations has been taken. If the action is allowed to stand, more sites will be targeted and taken down.
I urge you all to again be aware of the unilateral actions of the US Government. As we approach this November’s elections, ask your candidates where they stand on the US role in internet policy. Also, look to see how many Hollywood companies have donated to the election of those candidates. Follow the money to see which candidates will bow to the wills of Hollywood corporations at the expense of free communication everywhere.
Has the takedown of Megaupload shaken your confidence in cloud storage? Let us know in the comments below:
When not podcasting or writing for the Venganza Media Gazette, Arnie Carvalho is a programmer, web designer, and network enginner.