|Founded||21 March 2005; 7 years ago|
|Founder(s)||Kim Dotcom (born Kim Schmitz)|
|Key people||Finn Batato (CMO)|
|Net income||Over 175 million USD|
|Alexa rank||633 (May 2012)|
|Type of site||File hosting service|
|Available in||English, French, Arabic, Chinese (traditional and simplified), Danish, Dutch, Finnish, German, Greek, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Swedish, Turkish, and Vietnamese|
|Launched||21 March 2005; 7 years ago|
|Current status||Seized by the Federal Bureau of Investigation on 19 January 2012. Company services are still unavailable.|
The company's founder, Kim Dotcom, has denied any wrongdoing, and the case against Dotcom, who is a resident of New Zealand, has been the subject of controversy over its legality. The US judge handling the case has expressed doubts about whether the case will come to court.
The shutdown of Megaupload led to denial-of-service attacks on a range of websites belonging to the U.S. government and copyright organisations.
Company and servicesThe company's registered office was in Room 1204, on the 12th floor of the Shanghai Industrial Investment Building in Wan Chai, Hong Kong.
The company web services included: (a) Megaupload.com, a one-click hosting service; (b) Megapix.com, an image hosting; (c) Megavideo.com and Megalive.com, video hosting services; (d) Megabox.com, a music hosting service; and (e) Cum.com, hosting for pornographic content (formerly Megaporn, Megarotic and Sexuploader). Other services included Megaclick, Megafund, Megakey and Megapay, all of which were advertisement and financial services. Two additional services, Megabackup and Megamovie, were in development before their closure.
|Website||Description of Service|
|Megavideo.com||Megavideo.com was an associated, ad-supported video hosting service. For non-members, it was time-limited; it blocked itself after 72 minutes, and then allowed users to resume watching after a 30 minute period.|
|Megapix.com||Launched in late 2010, Megapix.com allowed for the uploading of images, competing with other image-hosting services such as Photobucket, ImageShack, TinyPic, Imgur and others.|
|Megalive.com||Megalive.com was a live video-streaming service; it competed with Ustream, Justin.tv and Livestream.|
|Megabox.com||Megabox.com was a music/audio-hosting service for the uploading of whole music libraries and playlists.|
|Megaporn.com||Megaporn.com was a file-sharing service aimed specifically towards pornographic movies and images.|
- Unique visitors: 82,764,913
- Page Views (in history): >1,000,000,000
- Visitors per day: 50,000,000
- Reach: 4%
- Registered Members: 180,000,000
- Storage: 25 petabyte (25000 terabyte)
- Once the 13th most visited site on the Internet
- According to Sandvine, MegaUpload accounted for 1% of total traffic on fixed access networks in North America.
- In a proceeding before the High Court of New Zealand on 2 February 2012, Kim Dotcom stated that Megaupload was "hosting 12 billion unique files for over 100 million users."
Mega Manager a download manager which featured a link-checker for Megaupload links as well as options to manage uploaded files, and to access the online control box that was also on the Megaupload site. Mega Manager bore striking resemblances to Conceiva DownloadStudio version 5, self-evident in its "Options..." dialogue box and some other aspects of the program. Mega Manager allowed users to automatically resume interrupted up- and downloads, which was especially important when transferring large files or transferring several files unattended.
MegakeyMegakey was an adware application which removed premium limitations on Mega services during "happy hour" periods. In return, the users running Megakey agreed to supply some personal identification and demographic data and to allowed the substitution of ads on third party websites they visit with those of Megaupload.
FileboxFileBox was a Flash applet which could be embedded onto any external webpage. It allowed users to upload content to Megaupload without having to visit the website itself or download the Mega Manager.
UnavailabilityAlthough incorporated in Hong Kong, the company did not operate in Hong Kong. From 2009 onward, users with Hong Kong IP addresses were banned from accessing the site. Not even the homepage was accessible by them. Any purchased premium accounts were still able to access the Megaupload site in Hong Kong until the last membership day. Some third-party download managers could circumvent this, for example, JDownloader, but only if a proxy was set up and enabled in the program. IPs from Mainland China were blocked as well. The reason for the block was never disclosed by Megaupload, but Hong Kong Customs officials have suggested that the block was an attempt to hinder law enforcement investigation.
As of 23 May 2010, access to Megaupload was intermittently blocked by the internet authorities in Saudi Arabia by their regulator Communications and Information Technology Commission. Megavideo was also intermittently blocked in the United Arab Emirates due to pornographic content being accessible through the service.
From 9 June 2011 onward, the Malaysian government through Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission ordered all ISPs in Malaysia to block Megaupload and Megavideo. Some ISPs reportedly blocked all the sites on the list while other ISPs have been throttling connection speeds.
In July 2011, access to Megaupload and Megavideo was blocked in India for Reliance Entertainment customers, after a court order was obtained, citing illegal copies of the 2011 film Singham on file hosting sites.
On 19 January 2012, U.S federal prosecutors in the state of Virginia shut Megaupload down and laid charges against its founder Kim Dotcom and others for allegedly breaching copyright infringement laws.
For a short time after the closure of the site, users could access material via Google's web cache and The Internet Archive. However, one day after the indictment Google and Archive.org voluntarily removed the site mirrors to avoid the responsibility of hosting a website taken down for copyright infringement.
CriticismIn January 2011, MarkMonitor published a report entitled "Traffic Report: Online Piracy and Counterfeiting", which claimed that Megaupload and Megavideo were, along with RapidShare, the top three websites classified as "digital piracy", with more than 21 billion visits per year. Megaupload responded by stating: "Activity that violates our terms of service or our acceptable use policy is not tolerated, and we go to great lengths to swiftly process legitimate DMCA takedown notices". Mark Mulligan, an analyst at Forrester Research, pointed out that the number of visits did not necessarily indicate the number of downloads of illegal material.
Megaupload Toolbar was claimed to redirect users to a custom error page when a 404 error occurs in the user's browser. It was also claimed to contain spyware. However, FBM software claimed that the Megaupload toolbar is free of spyware.
When a file is uploaded to Megaupload and another file with the same hash is already found to exist, the uploader is asked if they would like to link to the already existing file. Therefore, a single file may contain multiple links to it. However this has caused some controversy, since when a DMCA takedown notice is issued only the link that was provided is removed; not necessarily the file itself.
Megaupload song controversyOn 9 December 2011, Megaupload published a music video titled: "The Mega Song", showing artists including Kanye West, Alicia Keys and will.i.am endorsing the company. Snoop Dogg appeared in earlier versions of the video. The music video was also uploaded to YouTube, but was removed following a takedown request by the record company Universal Music Group (UMG). Megaupload said that the video contained no infringing content, commenting: "we have signed agreements with every featured artist for this campaign". Megaupload requested an apology from UMG, and filed a lawsuit against the company in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, on 12 December 2011. UMG denied that the takedown was ordered under the terms of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and said that the takedown was "pursuant to the UMG-YouTube agreement," which gives UMG "the right to block or remove user-posted videos through YouTube's CMS (Content Management System) based on a number of contractually specified criteria." The video was subsequently returned to YouTube, with the reasons for the UMG takedown remaining unclear. YouTube stated: "Our partners do not have the right to take down videos from YT unless they own the rights to them or they are live performances controlled through exclusive agreements with their artists, which is why we reinstated it." Lawyers for will.i.am initially claimed that he had never agreed to the project, but on 12 December, he denied any involvement in the takedown notice.
Arrests in New ZealandActing upon a US Federal prosecutor's request, the New Zealand Police arrested Dotcom and three other Megaupload executives in a leased $30 million luxury mansion at Coatesville near Auckland on Friday, 20 January (NZDT, UTC+13). This was pursuant to a request from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation that the four be extradited. The raid was timed for the birthday celebration of Dotcom. Assets worth $17 million including art works and luxury cars were seized. The four men arrested were Kim Dotcom (founder; 38 years old, from Germany), Finn Batato (CMO; 38, from Germany), Mathias Ortmann (CTO and co-founder; 40, from Germany) and Bram van der Kolk (29, from the Netherlands). Up to 80 Police officers were involved in this operation.
On 23 January, Dotcom appeared in Auckland's North Shore District Court for a bail hearing. The crown argued against bail on the basis that he is a flight risk with a helicopter on his front lawn. Defense argued the helicopter could not fly far enough to reach another country. They also said Dotcom denied any criminal wrongdoing. Judge David McNaughton expressed concern at the discovery of two shotguns at Dotcom's mansion during the police raid. The judge deferred a decision on whether to grant bail, saying that he needed more time to review the submissions. The request for bail was turned down, with Judge McNaughton saying that "he was denied due to the risk [that] Mr. Dotcom would flee jurisdiction and the possibility that if he reached Germany he wouldn’t be extradited to face the charges". On 3 February 2012, an appeal to the High Court of New Zealand upheld the decision to deny bail.
On 22 February 2012, North Shore District Court Judge Nevin Dawson overturned the previous rulings and granted bail to Kim Dotcom, saying that the risk of flight had diminished after his assets had been seized.
On 5 March 2012, a formal request for the extradition to the United States of Kim Dotcom and three other senior Megaupload staff was filed in a New Zealand court.
On 30 April 2012, the New Zealand High Court ruled that around $750,000 of Kim Dotcom's assets could be returned, including a Mercedes-Benz G55 AMG and Toyota Vellfire that had been seized during the raid on his home. The assets in 63 bank accounts and around thirty other vehicles remained in custody. A paperwork error by the New Zealand authorities meant that Kim Dotcom's property had been seized in January 2012 without giving proper notice. The restraining order on his property was granted in April 2012. During April 2012, US district court judge Liam O'Grady stated "I frankly don't know that we are ever going to have a trial in this matter," as he found out that the company had never been formally served with criminal papers by the US.
Basis of indictment alleged that Megaupload differed from other online file storage businesses.
Media reports covering the case highlighted a number of points from the indictment used to support claims of illegal activity. The indictment itself provided a large number of instances alleged to show criminal behaviour, as well as indicating design points of its operating model as being evidence of criminal intent:
- In practice, the "vast majority" of users do not have any significant long term private storage capability. Continued storage is dependent upon regular downloads of the file occurring. Files not downloaded are rapidly removed in most cases, whereas popular downloaded files are retained. (items 7 – 8)
- Because a small proportion of users pay for storage, the business is dependent upon advertising. Adverts are primarily viewed when files are downloaded and the business model is therefore not based upon storage but upon maximising downloads. (items 7 – 8)
- Persons indicted have "instructed individual users how to locate links to infringing content on the Mega Sites ... [and] ... have also shared with each other comments from Mega Site users demonstrating that they have used or are attempting to use the Mega Sites to get infringing copies of copyrighted content." (item 13)
- Persons indicted, unlike the public, are not reliant upon links to stored files, but can search the internal database directly. It is claimed they have "searched the internal database for their associates and themselves so that they may directly access copyright-infringing content". (item 14)
- A comprehensive takedown method is in use to identify child pornography, but not deployed to remove infringing content. (item 24)
- Infringing users did not have their accounts terminated, and the defendants "made no significant effort to identify users who were using the Mega Sites or services to infringe copyrights, to prevent the uploading of infringing copies of copyrighted materials, or to identify infringing copies of copyrighted works" (item 55–56)
- An incentivising program was adopted encouraging the upload of "popular" files in return for payments to successful uploaders. (item 69e et al.)
- Defendants explicitly discussed evasion and infringement issues, including an attempt to copy and upload the entire content of YouTube. (items 69i-l. YouTube: items 69 i,j,l,s)
Safe harbor provisionsThe US Digital Millennium Copyright Act provides safe harbor for sites that promptly take down infringing content. However, safe harbor does not exist if the site has actual knowledge and does nothing about it.
In Megaupload's case, the indictment alleges DMCA provisions were used for the appearance of legitimacy – the actual material was not removed, only some links to it were, takedowns agreement was approved based on business growth rather than infringement, and the parties themselves openly discussed their infringing activities. The indictment claims that Megaupload executives:
- "... are willfully infringing copyrights themselves on these systems; have actual knowledge that the materials on their systems are infringing (or alternatively know facts or circumstances that would make infringing material apparent); receive a financial benefit directly attributable to copyright-infringing activity where the provider can control that activity; and have not removed, or disabled access to, known copyright infringing material from servers they control."
In a television interview with 3 News, Kim Dotcom denied being a "piracy king", and claimed that Megaupload had applied the provisions of the DMCA and went beyond it, by giving copyright holders direct rights to delete links. He also claimed that the indictment relied on a malicious interpretation of technical issues to construe its claim of criminal intent, and that there was significant legal use of Megaupload.
Criminal defence actionKim Dotcom denied the charges filed against him, and hired the services of Ira Rothken, an attorney who has defended several copyright infringement cases. Ira Rothken stated that there is no criminal liability for secondary copyright infringement under US law, quoting a similar case involving YouTube as an example of similar accusations which have however been dealt with as a civil case.
In addition, Dotcom initially hired prominent Washington, D.C. attorney Robert Bennett, who had originally confirmed that he was going to represent Megaupload in the piracy case. Bennett is known for defending Bill Clinton, Enron, and other high-profile cases. However, on 22 January 2012, Robert Bennett withdrew from the Megaupload piracy case due to a conflict of interest with another client. As of 23 January, attorney Paul Davison was quoted as representing Megaupload's founder, Kim Dotcom, in New Zealand.. At the end of April a controversy emerged over legal representation. The law firm Quinn Emanuel, retained by Megaupload to argue for the retention of Megaupload's data, claimed in a motion filed to the court that there was a concerted effort by the United States Department of Justice to deny Megaupload fair legal representation. In the brief, Quinn Emanuel alleged that several law firms had dropped out of the case after the DoJ wrote to them over potential conflicts of interest, arguing that they wanted to call clients of the firms as witnesses. Given the size of the Megaupload, Quinn Emanuel claimed that this "conflict of interest" argument could be applied to any law firm with experience in intellectual property rights, denying Megaupload experienced representation in a case where both law and technical issues are involved. Quinn Emanuel received such a letter but rejected the DoJ's arguments.
Techdirt argued that while the founder of Megaupload had a significant history of "flouting the law", evidence had potentially been taken out of context or misrepresented and could "come back to haunt other online services who are providing perfectly legitimate services". Eric Goldman, a professor of law at Santa Clara University, described the Megaupload case as "a depressing display of abuse of government authority". He pointed out that criminal copyright infringement requires that willful infringement has taken place, and that taking Megaupload offline had produced the "deeply unconstitutional effect" of denying legitimate users of the site access to their data.
Data retentionFollowing the seizure of Megaupload, concerns were raised as to what would happen to the files that had been uploaded. On 20 January 2012, the Justice Department stated that "It is important to note that Mega clearly warned users to keep copies of any files they uploaded" adding that "Megaupload.com expressly informed users through its Frequently Asked Questions ('FAQs') and its Terms of Service that users have no proprietary interest in any of the files on Megaupload's servers, they assume the full risk of complete loss or unavailability of their data, and that Megaupload can terminate site operations without prior notice." On 27 January 2012, U.S. Attorney Neil H. MacBride wrote:
Now that the United States has completed execution of its search warrants, the United States has no continuing right to access the Mega Servers. The Mega Servers are not in the actual or constructive custody or control of the United States, but remain at the premises controlled by, and currently under the control of, Carpathia and Cogent. Should the defendants wish to obtain independent access to the Mega Servers, or coordinate third-party access to data housed on Mega Servers, that issue must be resolved directly with Cogent or Carpathia. It is our understanding that the hosting companies may begin deleting the contents of the servers beginning as early as 2 February 2012.In response, on 30 January 2012, Carpathia Hosting denied having access to MegaUpload files and issued a press release stating
Carpathia Hosting does not have, and has never had, access to the content on MegaUpload servers and has no mechanism for returning any content residing on such servers to MegaUpload’s customers. The reference to the 2 Feb 2012 date in the Department of Justice letter for the deletion of content is not based on any information provided by Carpathia to the U.S. Government. We would recommend that anyone who believes that they have content on MegaUpload servers contact MegaUpload. Please do not contact Carpathia Hosting.In the meantime, the Electronic Frontier foundation has started a campaign to allow legitimate users of Megaupload in the US access to their data and wants the data preserved for that reason. It has chosen to represent one such legitimate user in court and thus has sided with Megaupload and Carpathia in asking the court to retain the data.
On 26 April 2012, Megaupload data negotiations began. Carpathia reported that maintaining the data costs over 9,000 USD a day, and wanted to seek a formal resolution on whether to delete the data or release it to interested parties. United States district court Judge Liam O'Grady seemed sympathetic to Carpathia's plight and ordered all parties to return to the negotiating table. The DoJ, in the meantime, noted that 35 million USD had been paid by Megaupload to Carpathia, and alleged that Carpathia had knowingly profited from copyright infringement.
Retaliatory attacks by AnonymousThe action against Megaupload took place just hours after the mass online Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) protest. Shortly afterward, the United States Department of Justice's website and a number of other organizations' websites were taken offline following concerted denial of service attacks by Anonymous, which is seen by some as sympathetic to piracy.
Gizmodo concurred that it was "almost certainly the result of a quickly assembled DDoS [Distributed Denial of Service] attack—and easily the widest in scope and ferocity we've seen in some time", commenting that "if you had any doubts Anonymous is still a hacker wrecking ball, doubt no more". Links posted in chatrooms and on twitter, when clicked on by unsuspecting internet users, ran a web version of the application known as the "Low Orbit Ion Cannon". On 19 January 2012, Anonymous released a statement on Pastebin.com accepting responsibility of the mass attacks on websites including those of RIAA, MPAA, BMI, FBI, and others. According to the state-run RT network, Anonymous described the attacks as "the single largest Internet attack in its history".
Other reactionsFormer French president Nicolas Sarkozy said he was satisfied with the shutdown of the website. He found the site's operators were reaping "criminal profits from the illegal distribution of copyrighted works". "The time has come for increased judicial and police co-operation between states" in the fight against online piracy, he said in a statement.
Web organisations have raised concerns about possible effects of the Megaupload case on the future of file sharing, cloud storage, and Internet commerce. Various commentators including John C. Dvorak, Glenn Greenwald, and Julian Sanchez have written on the topic as well, particularly as it relates US government powers to take down a web site without a trial, even without new laws like SOPA. In fact, the U.S. Dept of Justice was able to rely on PRO-IP, a law passed back in 2008, in order to shut down Megaupload.
People who used Megaupload for personal and business storage, such as large audio and video files for family and work, have also voiced their complaints about the fact that they no longer had access to their files on the service. Examples cited in the media included staff at public interest group Public Knowledge who used it for large files, and Android cellphone software writers who described it as "one of the best ways to distribute [software] ... There are a number of similar sites for this use, but Megaupload was always the fastest".
File hosting websites limited the functionality of their services. FileSonic.com, one of the top ten file hosting services, withdrew the ability to share links to files. The site's main page added a banner stating "All sharing functionality on FileSonic is now disabled. Our service can only be used to upload and retrieve files that you have uploaded personally." Other file hosting websites followed suit, including FileServe.com, FileJungle.com, Uploadstation.com, x7.to and 4shared.com, by shutting down, cancelling affiliate programs or allowing users to only download what they themselves uploaded. Another large file-sharing website, Uploaded.to, ceased services for users accessing from United States based IP addresses.
According to MediaFire CEO Derek Labian, he and his file hosting company are not concerned by the Megaupload incident because "Megaupload was making a ridiculous amount of money with a ridiculously bad service... We don’t have a business built on copyright infringement." A spokesperson for RapidShare similarly expressed a lack of concern, saying that "file hosting itself is a legitimate business", pointing out that Microsoft's SkyDrive operates on a similar basis.
BTJunkie, a website indexing torrent files, shut down voluntarily on 6 February 2012. The file hosting site Turbobit.net blocked access to U.S. visitors, and QuickSilverScreen, a site offering streaming video links, closed on 7 February 2012.
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- ^ Tsukayama, Hayley (30 January 2012). "Carpathia: Don’t call us for Megaupload data". Washington Post. Retrieved 31 January 2012.
- ^ https://www.eff.org/press/releases/megaupload-user-asks-court-return-his-video-files
- ^ https://torrentfreak.com/us-megauploads-hosting-company-might-be-sued-next-120415/
- ^ "Anonymous in revenge attack for MegaUpload shutdown". Financial Times.
- ^ "Activists target recording industry websites". BBC News. 20 September 2012. Retrieved 31 January 2012.
- ^ Beaumont, Claudine (20 September 2012). "Music and film industry websites targeted in cyber attacks". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 31 September 2012.
- ^ a b Biddle, Sam (19 January 2012). "Anonymous Goes on Megaupload Revenge Spree: DoJ, RIAA, MPAA, and Universal Music All Offline". Gizmodo. Retrieved 31 January 2012.
- ^ "Anonymous post on Pastebin".
- ^ Burton, C., Drake, A. Hitting the Headlines In Europe, A Country-By-Country Guide to Effective Media Relations. Kogan Page Ltd. 2004. p. 163.
- ^ Stanford Journal of International Law, Volume 38, 2002. p. 26.
- ^ Smith, Gerry (19 January 2012). "Anonymous Responds To Megaupload Takedown; Claims Credit For DOJ, RIAA, MPAA, Universal Music Outages (UPDATE)". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 31 January 2012.
- ^ "FBI unplugs top piracy site". The Australian. 20 January 2012. Retrieved 20 January 2012.
- ^ Antipiracy Case Sends Shivers Through Some Legitimate Storage Sites (New York Times, 20 January 2012)
- ^ Megaupload shutdown raises new Internet-sharing fears (Washington Post, 20 January 2012)
- ^ Government takedown of Megaupload leads to new fears (USA TODAY, 20 January 2012)
- ^ Dvorak, John C. (20 January 2012). "U.S. Government Kills Megaupload". PCMag.com. Retrieved 22 January 2012.
- ^ Greenwald, Glenn. "Two lessons from the Megaupload seizure". Salon.com. Retrieved 22 January 2012.
- ^ "FBI Reminds Us Government Already Has MegaPower to Take Down Websites". Cato-at-liberty.org. Retrieved 22 January 2012.
- ^ "5 Questions, Answers About The Megaupload Case". Npr.org. Retrieved 22 January 2012.
- ^ If feds can bust Megaupload, why bother with anti-piracy bills? (Christian Science Monitor, 21 January 2012)
- ^ a b Brodkin, Jon. "Megaupload wasn't just for pirates: angry users out of luck for now". Arstechnica.com. Retrieved 22 January 2012.
- ^ Albanesius, Chloe (1 January 1970). "Recovering Legitimate Megaupload Files? Good Luck With That (PC Magazine)". Pcmag.com. Retrieved 22 January 2012.
- ^ "FileSonic disables file sharing in wake of MegaUpload arrests". CNET. 22 January 2012. Retrieved 23 January 2012.
- ^ "Cyberlocker Ecosystem Shocked As Big Players Take Drastic Action". torrentfreak.com. 23 January 2012. Retrieved 23 January 2012.
- ^ "FileSonic and Uploaded.to bow out in light of recent events". Technologymob.com. 23 January 2012. Retrieved 31 January 2012.
- ^ 22 January 2012, MediaFire CEO: Unlike Megaupload, our business model isn’t built on piracy, CloudBeat
- ^ 20 January 2012, RapidShare "not concerned" about Megaupload takedown, Ars Technica
- ^ "BitTorrent Index BTjunkie Bites the Dust". Time. 6 February 2012. Retrieved 8 February 2012.
- ^ "Turbobit.net Blocks US Visitors After MegaUpload Shutdown". TorrentFreak.net. 7 February 2012. Retrieved 8 February 2012.
- ^ "QuickSilverScreen Streaming Links Site Calls It Quits". TorrentFreak.net. 7 February 2012. Retrieved 8 February 2012.
Websites Operated by MegauploadNote: Owing to legal action, all of these sites are currently unavailable.
- Why Did the Feds Target Megaupload? And Why Now?, Gizmodo, 20 January 2012.
- Looking for Signs of Crime in Megaupload’s Memos, The New York Times, 20 January 2012.
- Newsmaker: Megaupload a story of Dotcom boom and bust, Reuters, 20 January 2012.