Megaupload.com shut down by USA… even though it’s run from New Zealand

21/01/2012

Just in case you’ve been living under a rock somewhere the past few days, I thought I’d fill you in: the popular “internet locker” storage site Megaupload.com has been closed down by the USA because of charges of alleged “piracy”. Apparently:

Shotguns, a Rolls Royce Phantom and millions of dollars were seized from properties linked to Megaupload on Friday, as the US sought to extradite the file-sharing firm’s founders over online piracy claims

and it seems that our of the seven Megaupload executives arrested, including founder Kim Dotcom, appeared in a New Zealand courtroom for a first appearance in what is likely to be a lengthy extradition process. USA authorities, clearly following orders from the vested interests in the SOPA/PIPA controversy, the US wants to put Megaupload bosses on trial for charges including accusing them of racketeering, money laundering and copyright infringement. It’s widely reported (even by the Guardian, damn their eyes!) that Aukland police seized luxury cars, firearms and millions of dollars in cash. As if ownership of nice legal stuff somehow makes these people guilty.

When Kim Dotcom spoke to press, apparently unfazed, he said he has “nothing to hide”

I really don’t get this raid at all. Megaupload.com is an online locker service, where the pubic can buy storage space for files. Megaupload does not examine all these files, but if someone reports that their intellectual rights are being infringed, Megaupload immediately take down the content in question. This all suggests to me that Megaupload is exactly the lawful, prudent service that should be protected under “safe harbor” laws. Ad I certainly don’t get where the US authorities are involved. As the EFF put it: “If the United States can seize a Dutch citizen in New Zealand over a copyright claim, what is next?”.

This is all clearly meant to bolster the case of those who back the draconian SOPA/PIPA laws being considered in the USA. SOPA/PIPA garnered a lot of bad press on “black-out Wednesday” and President Obama’s stated intent to veto the ridiculous laws.

One more interesting factoid: The Pirate Bay was nearly wrecked by Swedish authorities following US orders. And now New Zealand has done the same. So tell me something: when did the entire world become USA juridiction? And WTF are we going to do about it?

Go to Megaupload.com and you get to see this

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Net piracy puts 1.2 million EU jobs in peril? More industry and government lies

17/03/2010

Have you seen this ridiculous story? Apparently, a study backed by the European Union and the TUC has “found” that “a quarter of a million British jobs in the music, film, TV, software and other creative industries could be lost over the next five years if online piracy continues at its current rate.” It says that in the EU as a whole, as many as 1.2 million jobs are in jeopardy as piracy looks set to strip more than €240bn (£218bn) in revenues from the creative industries by 2015, unless regulators can stem the flow.

This is a lovely little scare-tactic story, designed to scare us all into accepting the UK government’s upcoming Digital Economy Bill, which hopes to introduce draconian powers to cut people off the internet if a film or music industry rights holder alleges that a person has infringed copyright. Anyone accused of copyright infringement will have their internet access disconnected, with no trial and no effective right of appeal.

The diabolical thing about this study is that its figures mean absolutely nothing. The claim is that illegal downloads are causing a financial loss to the entertainment industries of more than €240 billion. How did the study come up with this figure? By asserting that every single illegal download directly deprives the rights holder of the price of that downloaded material. For instance, if I download an album that costs €20 in the shops, that’s €20 I have actually stolen from the record company.

The entertainment industry has been using this formula for a long time now, so they have been able to claim millions of euros in compensation from average joes who share their music and films over peer-to-peer systems like bittorrent. But the formula is utterly ridiculous. Take “my friend” for instance. He has downloaded several rock albums over the years; and yes, if he had bought those albums legitimately he would have paid maybe €300 for them. But the point is this: if he had not been able to download these files for free, he certainly would not have gone out and bought them. Indeed, during this time he has spent a good few hundred euros on other albums. He downloaded many of these albums, to listen to and decide if he liked them – and when he decided he actually did like them, he went down the record shop and bought them on CD. If he likes a record, he wants to reward the artist – by paying for CDs, by going to concerts, by wearing official merchandise… he has absolutely no problem with paying for this stuff. But the albums he hasn’t paid for, he considers are not worth buying. So he hasn’t bought them – he never would have bought them – and the record industry has lost zero sales, and therefore lost zero money.

He likens this system to what we all used to do in the time before bittorrent. I would borrow an album from a friend and listen to it. If I liked it, I would go to the record store and buy myself a legitimate copy. If I wasn’t so keen on a record, I might record it onto a blank audio cassette; but I wasn’t depriving the record company of any money because I had no intention of buying it at all. If I hadn’t been able to copy a friend’s record, I certainly wouldn’t have gone and bought a legitimate copy. I would have gone without it. And I was certainly not alone in this.

At that time, we all saw those ominous posters that said “Home taping is killing music”. But, funnily enough, home taping didn’t kill the music industry. Plenty of legitimate records were bought. And a similar thing happened with video. When consumer VCRs hit the market, the film industry was up in arms. Why would anyone pay to see a movie when they could just get a bootleg copy? was the big question. But, as we all now know, the VCR did not kill the movie industry. Far from it: the video cassette gave the industry a new and lucrative income stream. People bought legitimate videos by the wheelbarrow-full. It’s true that the cinemas took a hit. But that loss was more than made up for by the revenues from video sales and rentals. New technology scared the industry for a while; yet within a very short time, that new technology became the new cash cow.

So, yet again the entertainment industries are worried about the new technology. All they see is doom and gloom. But if they were capable of learning from history, they would soon realise that computers and the internet will soon pour untold riches into the industry coffers. Some companies are already moving into new business models – companies like Netflix are making good money from selling an online streaming service. And in time, more possible solutions will present themselves. The digital revolution is going to be as big and important as the introduction of “talkies”. Why can’t the entertainment industries just get up off their asses and come up with new business models? Why do we all need to suffer, just because the fat slobs are too lazy to do their stinking jobs? New technology always changes the status quo – not always for the better, but very often it’s easy to see the silver lining. Why can’t the movie and recording industry bigwigs see the silver lining here? How in hell did such blind, lazy good-for-nothings ever get to be so successful? Idiots.

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UK govt to press ahead with plan to cut off file-sharers’ internet access

19/11/2009

Well it’s official: yesterday (Wednesday) the UK government announced its intention to pass a law that will sever the internet connections of anyone suspected of illegally sharing files.

Through the medium of the “Queen’s Speech” (an archaic tradition by which the Queen announces the government’s legislative plans for the coming year) it was revealed that file-sharers’ broadband links will be disconnected without trial.

As the current government’s term is nearing its end, there’s a chance that they may run out of time before the “Digital Economy” bill is passed. But it doesn’t really matter: the opposition Conservative party supports this proposal too. Which shouldn’t come as a surprise: both the Tories and Labour have long been in love with big business. This proposed law is a sop to the music and film industries, who claim that “copyright theft” costs them hundreds of millions of pounds a year – they claim that they lost £486 million in 2007, and that an estimated 6.5 million Brits illegally downloaded music and films last year. Of course that’s nonsense: their calculations are based on the lie that every album or movie illegally downloaded represents a direct loss of revenue, completely ignoring the fact that most file-sharers would not have bought the records or videos they downloaded. But the industry can’t let the truth get in the way.

The government refuses to admit that innocent people may fall foul of the new law, despite the fact that wireless networks can be used by unauthorized downloaders and that multi-occupancy residences can contain more than one computer using the same IP address. I’m interested to see how the rights-owners or ISPs will be able to identify which downloads are illegal. Peer-to-peer protocols like bittorrent are used extensively for perfectly above-board downloads too. There’s been mention of using “phishing” techniques and “honeypot sites” to detect illegal transactions; hopefully this will all become clearer soon.

Many commentators believe that the film and music industries are just using file-sharers as scapegoats for their falling profits. Content providers need to come up with new business models that accommodate consumers’ changing habits.

Mark Schmid, from TalkTalk, said: “There’s been a real split among content owners when it comes to readjusting to the new digital landscape. Some – such as computer games companies – have been clever and come up with innovative ways to discourage piracy and maintain customer loyalty, for instance through adding extra levels to computer games that you only get if you’ve bought the product. But other content sectors – most notably the music industry – have failed to innovate and have blamed the internet for spoiling their old ways of doing business. We think this is extremely complacent. The internet is now a fact of life and we believe new business models need to be introduced if they want to survive and thrive in the digital world.”

Illegal downloading is not responsible for the film industry’s woes. Today’s widely-available fast broadband connections have made online streaming much more popular. There are legal free services, like BBC iPlayer, Channel 4’s 4OD service, and the US-based Hulu (set to come to Britain in 2010). And there are a great many ad-supported streaming sites like Youku and Megavideo. The film and TV content providers need to change their business model. But why should they, when governments are willing to make us reward their ineptitude?

Watch out, world: it’s happening in the UK now, and in France; but soon it’ll be in the USA, Australia, the rest of Europe… hell, everywhere. No one’s safe from the internet police.

If you don’t want this crazy plan to become law, you need to act!!  Visit the Open Rights Group web site to learn how you can help campaign against the internet disconnection bill!

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