A man known as Kim Dotcom (real name, Kim Schmitz) is a 38-year old computer programmer that is best known for creating one of the most popular downloading websites in the world. Megaupload.com operated as a one-click hosting service that allowed users to upload files for sharing worldwide. Unfortunately, the majority of the files available were pirated software, music and movies. On January 20th, 2012, Kim Dotcom was arrested on copyright infringement charges in New Zealand. Today, he was imprisoned and denied bail due to being an extreme flight risk.
Anyone who has ever downloaded something illegal has probably used Megaupload at some point. The service provided storage space online for small fee. Uploaders would store bootlegged movies, music, tv shows, ebooks, software, games and anything else under the sun. The links to this content would then be mass-distributed to the world via websites that offered little to no value to the web community and were usually plastered with seemingly endless advertisements. As a downloader, you could take anything your heart desired. Where Megaupload made its real money was by providing “faster” download services for a fee. As a free user, you were limited to a small number of downloads per day, but most importantly your maximum speed was capped.
Being number one in anything can be difficult, but being number 1 on the Internet (and staying there) can be next to impossible. Although Megaupload.com never reached the coveted rank of the number one visited website in the world, Alexa.com shows that at one point it was the 13th most visited website. Currently it rests at 74. In short time, it will likely fall off the face of the Internet faster than it took me to write that.
At one point or another, this is what Megaupload was pulling down:
- Unique visitors: 81 million
- Pageviews: > 1 billion
- Visitors per day: 50 million
- Daily reach: 4%
- Members: 180 million
It was also estimated that at its peak, Megaupload was responsible for over 4% of all Internet traffic! Not bad for a website started in 2005. Among the other sites that Megaupload Limited operated were websites for videos (Megavideo.com), photos (Megapix.com) and porn (Megaporn.com). All have currently been shut down and now display the infamous FBI anti-piracy logo:
All the websites and domains associated with Megaupload were seized by the government a few days ago and as you can plainly see, when you access any of these sites, you are greeted with a friendly reminder that they no longer exist. The charges laid out to Kim Dotcom and Megaupload Limited stem from years of pirating anything digital. While sites like YouTube have solved similar legal issues by installing teams of people with the sole purpose of finding and removing copyrighted videos, Megaupload has allowed its users to upload and share anything and everything.
As a result, New Zealand Police arrested Kim Dotcom and three other Megaupload executives in Auckland on January 20th. The FBI has requested that these four individuals be extradited to the United States. Kim Dotcom was denied bail for fear that if he made it to Germany he would escape extradition.
The indictment indicated that Megaupload differed from other online storage business in a number of ways, in that Megaupload relied heavily on users to download files rather than actually store anything. This was because the vast majority of users did not pay for the service, thereby making Megaupload rely on advertising dollars from ads shown to free downloaders.
Once this guy gets his sentence, I’m sure the domain and all the business assets (what’s left after the seizure) will be sold off to some other corporation so they can breath life back into the brand. And just like Napster, they will attempt to take the “legal” approach to file sharing. However, the damage is likely done. Those of us who have used it will miss its free and open business model, while those of you who will discover it for the first time in whatever new light is shined on it will never know how great it used to be.
My Two Cents
Kim Dotcom was able to use his business-savvy skills and computer knowledge to create one of the largest file-sharing networks of all time. I remember using the site a few times and always had that first thought of “Why didn’t I think of this?!”, but as I thought more about it, I kept asking myself how websites like Megaupload can exist when it’s crystal clear about what its purpose is—to provide copyrighted material to the world free of charge.
I was reading an article on Yahoo! about Kim Dotcom being arrested and someone left a very interesting comment that I just had to share:
Megaupload was shut down, WITHOUT the need for PIPA or SOPA… Imagine that, the copyright holders using the legal system and EXISTING LAW to bust pirates instead of censoring the internet…
It brings up a very good point and it’s the exact reason I have been so against PIPA and SOPA ever since the new legislation was introduced. The idea that we need more and more laws to combat a problem like this is ridiculous. We have what we need to prosecute people like this and the take-down of the entire Megaupload network is proof that this process works…even in other countries.