This story was interesting. The day after the massive SOPA/PIPA protest, State thugs raided and shut down Megaupload. That was a big “F*** You!” to the SOPA/PIPA protests, that the Megaupload raid came the next day.
To protest the Megaupload raid, “Anonymous” hacked into some websites. It isn’t possible to be sure if they really were disgruntled people, or a false flag operation designed to discredit those nasty Internet people.
Megaupload was a file sharing website. You can upload a file, and share the link with many people. Megaupload made money off ads. Megaupload sold “premium” accounts, which enabled faster downloads and more downloads. A non-premium account was limited to approximately one file per hour.
People could also use Megaupload to share copyrighted content. This is the basis for the criminal charges. The correct answer is “‘Intellectual property’ is not property.” Most people are arguing “Internet piracy is a problem, but this action is a bit extreme.” That is pro-State trolling. The very word “piracy” sets the debate in the wrong frame, because copying is not stealing.
If you make a copy of a song or movie, that is not the same as stealing physical property. If your customers would rather make a copy than pay you, then the real problem is that you have a poor relationship with your customers. Computers and the Internet make traditional copyright law obsolete, because now the cost of copying is zero. When it required a significant capital investment to make copies, the model for copyright law made more sense.
Copyright law has its origins in censorship. When the printing press was invented, the king was threatened by it. It would enable people to spread non-approved ideas. The solution was that you had to submit your book for approval, and then get permission to print it. After awhile, there were only a few printing presses directly authorized by the king. That was too obviously monopolistic. The law was changed. Individuals own the copyright, *BUT* copyrights can be sold, *AND* if you want your book published you have no choice but to sell your copyright to a member of the State cartel. The net effect is that most copyrights wind up owned by large corporations. A few corporations own almost all the copyrights. They lobbied for draconian copyright law and retroactive copyright extensions. The Internet removes the “You have to sell your copyright to the cartel in order to get published.” factor from the above equation.
One conspiracy theory is that Megaupload was planning a service, encouraging independent artists to directly publish on Megaupload, via a revenue-sharing agreement. Another conspiracy theory is that Megaupload hired some musicians to make a promotional video, a music corporation filed an inappropriate DMCA takedown notice, and Megaupload was suing and going to win. The criminal charges make that lawsuit moot. That’s a common theme in State law. If you catch a State insider doing something bad, they turn around and charge you with an even bigger crime, which automatically disqualifies your complaint.
The owner of Megaupload, Kim “Dotcom”, was arrested and will be extradited to the USA. (He had his last name legally changed to “Dotcom”.) Normally, extradition is reserved for murderers and serious criminals. The State is treating people who create filesharing websites as equivalent to murderers.
There is another amusing bit. Kim “Dotcom” barricaded himself in a “safe room”. The police broke in and captured him. That shows the uselessness of making such preparations. Once State thugs decide they want to kidnap you, you should either surrender peacefully or go all Ed and Elaine Brown. I’ve decided that, if it comes to that, I’m going to surrender peacefully and hope for a fair trial; if necessary, I’ll represent myself and mention jury nullification. However, State thugs do go overboard with excessive sentences for minor crimes. If you know you aren’t going to get a fair trial and you’re going to be in jail for the rest of your life, why not go down swinging?
Even if Kim Dotcom is eventually acquitted, he is not reimbursed for the legal fees, the cost of time spent in jail, and the cost of having his business ruined. That’s one problem with State raids and “asset forfeiture”. You lose your property and your business, even if you are never convicted of a crime.
Also, the fact that Kim Doctom had an “illegal” gun will probably lead to a few years tacked on to his sentence. Either don’t own an illegal gun, or be prepared to use it!
Another interesting bit is that Kim “Dotcom” was pretty wealthy. The lesson here is “Honest wage slave work is for losers.” I should get more serious about agorism. That’s on my list of things to do. Illegal and quasi-legal businesses tend to be very profitable, even though the CEO can never have an IPO and steal via bankster tricks.
It is hypocritical that the State is cracking down on file sharing, but lets financial criminals like Jon Corzine get away with it. The media cartel is lobbying for stricter copyright enforcement and getting it.
Megaupload had a DMCA agent. However, they limited the number of DMCA takedown requests they would accept per day. Megaupload also had a deduplication feature. If 10 people uploaded the same file, they would only store one copy on their server. However, if Megaupload got a DMCA takedown notice, they would only remove one copy and not all 10. That is a legal grey area. What if one person legally uploaded the file; maybe he was making a backup copy of a DVD he actually owned?
Also, a lot of the dispute around Megaupload should be civil and not criminal. Is it really worth a military-style raid and extradition, over filesharing?
Megaupload did not have a search feature. Ironically, for other websites that were seized “They had a search feature!” was listed as evidence of criminal intent. Megaupload’s lack of a search feature was listed as evidence of criminal intent! (The lack of a search feature did make it hard for the media cartel to crack down on sharing via DMCA takedowns.)
Megaupload had a revenue sharing feature. People who uploaded popular files got a cut of the ad revenue. That is a common website practice. However, State thugs listed this as another count on the indictment! There were “money laundering” charges tacked on. Because Megaupload was facilitating copyright “infringement”, their pay-for-traffic arrangements count as “money laundering”!
It’s pathetic when State prosecutors stretch to tack on charges. However, it’s a common tactic. It helps coerce plea bargains. If Kim Dotcom pleads guilty, he may get a couple of years in jail, with many of the superfluous charges dropped. If he goes to trial and loses, he may get a life sentence. Therefore, the incentive is for him to plea bargain.
I was amused by the frequent usage of the phrase “Mega Conspiracy” in the indictment. That makes it seem more evil. The real conspiracy is that State cartels use violence to shut down people who threaten their monopoly. The State “justice” system is one big criminal conspiracy, given the illusion of legitimacy via “color of law”.
The State also froze all his bank accounts. That’s another sleazy trick. That prevents him from hiring a lawyer to defend himself. (One high-profile defense attorney agreed to represent him and then resigned. Other members of his law firm had worked for the media cartel, leading to a conflict-of-interest.)
State thugs seized his servers and interrupted his business. Even though Kim Dotcom was not convicted of a crime (yet), the State stole his business and stole his property.
If you were a Megaupload user who was using it for legal filesharing, such as self-publishing, you are SOL. You may never recover your files. However, you’re an idiot if you used Megaupload and didn’t keep backups. You can buy a 3 TB external HD for only $200. If you had something important on Megaupload, you should have backed it up.
This also casts doubt on all “cloud storage” businesses. For example, I am at risk on Linode. Suppose that another Linode user were charged with a crime. State thugs will then seize *ALL* of Linode’s servers. It might be awhile before I get my website back. I do keep a backup copy of my WP database and PHP, but I only do it every few months. (I wrote some custom PHP for my blog.)
This indictment has a chilling effect. Many other popular Megaupload clones have either shut down, or stopped offering access to US users.
Notice the incredible efficiency of State violence. They only had to raid *ONE* business. Now, people with similar businesses are panicking and shutting down.
I use retrogaming BitTorrent trackers. I download copies of old games and play them in emulators. I am concerned that, someday, a State raid will force them to close. Even though those websites stick to older no-longer-marketable stuff, they still could be raided, just like Megaupload.
It’s like that old Nazi poem. “First they came for Megaupload. Then they shut down other file sharing websites. Then they shut down the BitTorrent trackers. Then they shut down blogs that criticize the State, but by then, there was nobody left to complain.”
Once you have censorship power, it tends to expand and get used for more and more things. Once you have a censorship engine for copyright “crime”, it can be extended to any type of un-approved information sharing, such as political criticism.
Here’s another example of how copyright leads to censorship. Suppose I picked a clip from TV where an evil person was speaking, posted it to YouTube and analyzed the body language. Technically, that’s fair use, but the media corporation that owns the clip might file a DMCA takedown notice (or outright sue me Righaven-style). I’d have to spend time and money defending myself, even if it was a short clip that should be obviously legal to use.
State thugs say “Copyright ‘crime’ on the Internet needs to be treated as equivalent to crime in the physical world.” The most important point, copying isn’t stealing, is never mentioned in mainstream debate. To consider other analogies, if you use a phone to commit a crime, you blame the criminal and not the phone company. If you use a car to commit a crime, you blame the criminal and not the car manufacturer.
With the Internet, you can create a website that allows user-generated content. If the website owner is responsible for all content posted by users, then it’s effectively illegal to create a website with user-generated content.
With the Megaupload raid, the State said “It’s illegal to create a business that makes it easy for people to share arbitrary large files.” There’s no way a website owner can review every single file uploaded. There are some Megaupload competitors that were more diligent about making sure they obeyed copyright “law”, but even they shut down.
Kim Dotcom certainly seems like a sleazy character. It’s hard to tell from a State mugshot and arrest propaganda photo, but he does seem like a shady character. State thugs picked an unsympathetic-seeming defendant. When defending individual freedom, it seems that you’re often defending borderline-sleazy characters like Kim Dotcom, Sholom Rubashkin, and Bernard Nothaus. I still say that they are victims. Their true crime was challenging State cartels. Kim Dotcom challenged the State media cartel. Sholom Rubashkin challenged the State meatpacking cartel. Bernard Nothaus challenged the State paper money cartel.
The biggest threat of the Internet is not merely “copyright infringement”. It’s that someone can self-publish, start a business, gain a reputation, and spread their ideas without going through State gatekeepers. The media cartel is also a censorship engine, with only “approved” ideas getting published. Without the Internet, I never would have learned about real freedom. I’m good at seeing ideas written by others and explaining them more simply, such as the Compound Interest Paradox. Hopefully, I’m helping other people understand real freedom.
If I was dependent on the State media cartel, I never would have learned about real freedom. If I was dependent on the State media cartel to publish my ideas, I would never have been able to publish anything. I never would have helped 200+ people understand the truth better. (I estimate that I have 200 regular readers.)
The Megaupload raid is a new low point for State censorship. There was a severe chilling effect, as most other Megaupload-like businesses stopped operating. If a business is responsible for what its customers do, then it’s very hard to create useful new tools. It is a bit severe to extradite people to the USA for “copyright crime”, a process normally reserved for murderers. Kim Dotcom does seem like a sleazy character, but I still say he’s a victim. Kim Dotcom is a sleazy unsympathetic defendant, making it easy to get a conviction and a favorable precedent.
The Megaupload cascade effect is an interesting insight into how State power works. State thugs used violence to shut down one business. All similar businesses stop operating, even though they were never physically raided. It’s an impressive bit of evil efficiency.