Has Megaupload ruined file hosting for everyone else?
23rd Jan 2012 | 14:26
Not all about piracy
Watching the events unfold in the Megaupload case, one thing's for certain – movie-makers the world over will be clambering for the rights to Kim Dotcom's story.
But underneath the sensationalism of what is turning out to be one of the biggest ever cases of copyright infringement the internet has seen, there's the feeling that this isn't a case that will just change the face of internet piracy but may also completely ruin the integrity of honest file-hosting websites.
Cloudy with a chance of firewalls
Considering the whole of the IT sector is pushing consumers to the cloud, it is more pressing than ever that we have personal locker services which allow non-pirates store files and share them legally with others.
At the moment, there are a number of these services around that have managed, quite rightly, not to be tarred with the piracy brush – Dropbox and YouSendIt are two that spring to mind – but soon running a legitimate file-hosting site on the web will be akin to setting up a strip club in the middle of a high street; it's legal but ultimately frowned upon and seen as a blip on the radar of civility.
Many file-hosting sites around at the moment – Megaupload included – have become shady areas of the web where dodgy goings-on rub shoulders with above-board dealings.
It means that there is an identity crisis happening and some of the big names have had to reveal recently just where their allegiances lie – to those who want 'free' movies and music, or to those who use their service for what it is actually meant for.
Interestingly, it is the two main rivals to Megaupload that have come out with statements first to disassociate them from copyright infringement and plead their innocence.
These are Rapidshare, ranked the 211th most popular website by Alexa, and Mediafire which is ranked 68th in the world.
Mediafire's CEO Derek Labian was quick to note in an interview with VentureBeat: "Like many other cloud-based sharing services like Box.net and Dropbox, we're a legitimate business targeting professionals."
Meanwhile a spokesperson for Rapidshare insisted: "File hosting itself is a legitimate business, [so] we're not concerned or scared about the raid."
This may well be the case but now all eyes are on companies like this and it won't be long before they have to significantly change their ways – adding authentication, copyright takedowns, upload and download caps – or face up to the feds.
Interestingly, the Megaupload scenario has scared many digital lockers into going completely legit with some big names throwing away the key to third party downloaders. Both FileSonic and FileServe have done this and TorrentFreak is reporting that many more have decided that enough is enough.
Whether this is an admission of guilt or a precautionary measure, it's unfortunate that those who are using these sites as true digital lockers are finding their own content is no longer available to them.
Even if a cyberlocker service is the cleanest around, Megaupload's downfall means that consumers will be dubious more than ever about file hosting, which means that some sort of file-host regulation is needed quickly.
Then again, maybe all that's needed is a catchy tune…