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.