One day after SOPA/PIPA was pushed off the books (for the time being) the government moved forward with bringing down file sharing site Megaupload and all of its children. Now, I hear a faint cheer of “yay” from authors of e-books and their publishers. No doubt Megaupload was the file carrier of many pirated files and eliminating them would seem to be a tidy solution to many of your profit problems.

But it’s not.

While it could be (and certainly will be) argued that their reward scheme for popular uploaded files led to the uploading of pirated material, those files did not upload themselves. Furthermore, not every file uploaded to their site was copyrighted content, yet every file is not accessible.

Trust me, I know the pain of having to file the DMCA notices for every file that’s been uploaded. I’m not saying any of this from a place of ignorance. I’m saying all of this from a place of careful caution.

There is more than one way to skin a cat. Congress does not have to pass a law to get SOPA/PIPA’s principles across. Court precedence has a huge impact on the rule of law and by idly standing by while a site is pulled down by the government–how different is that from the possibility of violating free speech with SOPA, really?

Basically, the government just decided that site should be shut down and it was. Rather than having ISPs ignore it, they made it go away. All files that may or may not have been copyrighted material are offline with no discrimination. File sharers made the site popular, but businesses were using it. People sharing photos and videos with their families. People using it to back up old files. They had no warning, nor are they guilty of anything, but their files are inaccessible either way.

Another thing that bothers me is that this is just another form of corporate welfare. Hear me out here. My tax dollars are going for the prosecution of these people who ran a hosting company, basically. And was it because they were hosting a weapon of mass destruction? No. They were hosting files that violated copyright. Okay, not good, but does that come out of my pocket as a citizen? Sure, it can come out of my pocket as a content creator, but I don’t expect the government to file my DMCAs for me. However, Megaupload executives are being seized at great expense to us for the profit of movie and music companies. It’s their pocketbooks that are supposedly suffering (though they can only estimate what their damages would really be.) Why is that a national issue? Oh, right. Lobbyists.

Did they know files violating copyright are up? Sure they do. Youtube knows this, too. But no one is required to respond unless a DMCA notice is sent. Then the response is to take the file down. Sure, they get uploaded again, but guess who’s doing that? The pirates.

And guess who’s just going to move their target site? The pirates.

And guess what problem isn’t resolved? Pirating.
And guess what problem is resolved? The government’s ability to take down sites for fairly nebulous reasons.

Pirates are annoying. I get that. But this is not going to stop them. It’s not even going to stun them. The only real way to do so is to give up your freedom on the internet. Maybe I could’ve made a couple hundred more dollars this year. Maybe a couple of thousand. I don’t know. I have no way to know how many people shared my files or in what way or if they would’ve ever even bought my book to start with.

Hell, I don’t know if they got a book free from an internet site and bought the rest of the catalog because they liked it. I have no way of calculating or understanding any of that.

But I can tell you that I would give a lot more money than what I would’ve gotten to keep the internet free.

Especially if it ever comes to that conservative Supreme Court ever getting to weigh in on what smut or pornography is.

Think about it.

3 thoughts on “Megaupload shutdown: A content creator’s thoughts on why it’s bad

  1. You obviously know what I think because we’ve already discussed it, but I know how dangerous this opinion can be in our line of work. It took courage to speak out about the importance of freedom over pennies, and I stand with you proudly.

    The willingness of small publishers and authors to rejoice over something like that is a microcosmic instance of the larger publishers of movies, music, and books and the big-name artists using their clout to destroy internet freedom in the name of profits. It’s no different whether you stand to lose dozens of dollars or millions, but what’s truly sad to me is that people with millions can leave the country when they destroy freedom here and realize they don’t like it. The smaller authors won’t be able to and will have to deal with the repercussions more personally, while never having benefited half as much.

    Even just a quick cost vs benefit analysis tells me that the people who are really reaping benefits from this do not include me, the small author, but I know that as a 99%er I’ll be paying the cost.

    1. To be honest, I’m not even sure the movie and music people know what they’re unleashing. It’s scary times when you can have indefinite detention of American citizens–even if this administration says its not going to use it, there’s more than one Dick Cheney in the world. I remember a time when torture wouldn’t even be considered and now it’s “enhanced interrogation.”

      The government is good at some things, but looking out for our personal freedoms isn’t one of them. Some people may scoff at the notion that the government can and would use these laws to suppress dissenting opinions, but look at where we are. Look at the wiretapping and spying on citizens that’s allowed in the interest of “national security.”

      Anyone who thinks there won’t or haven’t been abuses are living in a dreamland. Look at what happens to Julian Assange for showing Americans and the world the truth about what’s going on with our military. Killing a Reuters photographer? Innocent civilians? And that’s all redacted from public view and we just carry on our merry way and act like it’s Assange’s fault for posting it?

      And people think it won’t happen to them? Maybe it won’t because all they think about all day is Snooki like they’re supposed to. I should just shut up and pretend like Ryan Seacrest is a genius.

      1. Quoted: “The government is good at some things, but looking out for our personal freedoms isn’t one of them. ”

        Isn’t that the truth? Absolute power corrupts absolutely, and the closer we allow our leaders to edge toward that intoxicating level of power, the more temptation is placed in the hands of mere mortals. If the scandals in the history of every major politician indicate, they are susceptible to using shady means to reach what may be truly noble ends. And as you said about precedents….they are very dangerous. While you may trust a current leader, you cannot guarantee that every other person to acquire that level of power will be equally trustworthy. Nor can you foresee the legal ramifications of the precedents, which could be used at some future point to repeal even more freedoms.

        It’s much more of a slippery slope from “shutting down websites big corporations dislike” to “shutting down websites that have opinions our campaign contributors dislike” than it is from “gay people getting married” to “people marrying dogs,” and you know how loudly we’ve heard that fearmongering spouted in the past decade. And yet, on this infinitely more dangerous issue, we hear nothing. What about the white collar criminals whom the government seems intent on giving bailout funds and subsidies? There are far more expensive, dangerous, insidious crimes going on all the time, but those wealthy enough to afford their own lobbyists aren’t the victims, so those will never be a priority.

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