Computer Ethics: Megaupload vs. US

Megaupload, the file-sharing website shut down in January 2012 by the U.S. federal government, is a Web hosting tool that found itself accused of being an online haven for digital pirates.Many people probably never have heard of the site. But to millions, the 6-year-old site, based in Hong Kong, was a fast, easy way to store massive files in a “locker” online and then share them with friends or colleagues. At various points in its history, Megaupload has been among the most popular websites in the world.

But the site has long suffered accusations of allowing less-than-legal files to pass through its computer servers.

“Megaupload was always going to get taken down — far too flagrant publication of copyrighted material,” Jonathan Riggall, a website editor living in Barcelona, Spain, wrote on a blog devoted to file-sharing issues.

“I think sharing on the Web is great, and I don’t care if it’s copyrighted material — but Megaupload and some similar sites are making loads of money out of making it possible for people to view pirated stuff. Of course they will be targeted as they are blatantly breaking laws.”

The U.S. attorney for Megaupload.com denies the government’s allegations.

‘We believe that the allegations are without merit and Megaupload is going to vigorously defend against the case,” attorney Ira Rothken said.

Created in 2005, Megaupload was the 72nd-most-visited site on the Web during the past three months and has peaked as high as No. 13. The site offered what’s called “one-click hosting,” letting users upload anything on their hard drive or in cloud storage to the Web. The service gives users a URL that can then be shared with others — often on discreet online message boards or social networks — letting them access the file as well.

MegaVideo was the site’s video service, letting even nonmembers view more than an hour of video at a time on the site, and MegaPix was a photo storage and sharing site in the mold of Flickr or Photobucket.

The U.S. government said that it seized $50 million in assets and that much of the $175 million the site has earned since 2005 was due to copyright infringement. Publicly, at least, the site frowned on illegal uploads. It featured a tool to report “abuse,” gave copyright holders the ability to hunt for illegal content and registered with the U.S. government under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, a law aimed at fighting piracy.

The site’s owners have denied any wrongdoing in regard to copyright violation, and  their attorney has said the site was wrongly shut down before its owners were allowed to address the charges against them.

But the Justice Department says the anti-theft efforts were a facade — that Megaupload’s employees knew they were enabling piracy and made the site difficult for outsiders to search for illegal material.

In an unofficial sampling of CNN Tech readers on Twitter, many quickly acknowledged using the site to watch TV shows or movies. But others cited more legitimate uses, with some saying they’ve lost legitimate content, not to mention money, after the government crackdown.

Seng Ung of Boston said he recently paid roughly $260 for a lifetime membership so he could store old files from childhood and college. He didn’t lose them, but now he’s gotten nothing in return for his payment, he said.

Developers of open-source Linux and Homebrew software said they used it to upload projects they were working on together. Musicians, as well, said they stored songs for collaborative projects there. One user said she used it for sharing large zip files of photographs that were too unwieldy to send via e-mail.

Were the owners of Megaupload responsible for the piracy of some of their members?

excerpts from CNN, “What’s the controversial site Megaupload.com all about?”, 21 January 2012  [1]

About Jack Myers

Married for over 20 years and proud father of a daughter and two sons in college. Extended family includes 5 bro/sis in-laws, 21 nieces/ nephews (and their children), 2 dogs, a cat and a snake. Currently pursuing a Master's Degree in Computer Science at Rowan University and serving as an instructor for Camden County College and elsewhere. Formerly led Pfizer’s BT Engagement Partner team and other technology teams at Wyeth, SmithKline Beckman and Centocor including Project Management, Portfolio Management, Identity Management, IT Security, Global Architecture and application development teams focusing on Information Management, Clinical Data Management, Regulatory Submissions and Processes, and Patient Safety.

Comments

Computer Ethics: Megaupload vs. US — 20 Comments

  1. The U.S. Federal Government did the right thing, shutting down Megaupload. Megaupload was allowing illegal files to be shared. Technically, they were stealing copyrighted material and getting money from it. The owners of the material would not receive any credit or money, because Megaupload was collecting the money. Big companies should always aim for honesty. Also, follow laws and regulations, to protect consumers.

  2. In my eyes Megaupload is obviously at fault here because they know the guidelines they have to follow and they chose to find a loophole and exploit it. Having said that, the users of the site knew they were breaking laws but continued to do so for convenience so in the end I believe there should have been a policy agreement between the site and the users. The site is responsible for enabling the users to break laws but the blame has to go both ways in my eyes.

  3. mega upload was wrong and they shouldn’t have been breaking any rules to get what they wantshouldnt copy any bodies work and try to sell it as your own

  4. I personally used to use this site and i found it very helpful if I ever wanted to watch a movie or download music. I knew that it got shut down but its crazy to think that they made money off of it. I never knew that!

  5. I never knew that the owners made so much money. Though I don’t think the owners of Megaupload are to be blamed completely, I do believe they were in the wrong and knew what their site was mainly used for. So many users to blame for all the copyrighted material that was stolen, which is why i think its hard to completely blame just the owners of megaupload.

  6. I think in time, Megaupload would’ve gotten shut down eventuall. This isn’t the only website that provides illegal pirating. There are tons. They just haven’t been targeted yet. I think the main problem was that Megaupload didn’t have any terms of use regarding and illegal content and once it was detected they didn’t really do anything about it. Not everyone used this website as an illegal way of seeing and sharing copyrighted material and I think people who paid money for a membership should be reimbursed. As long as the money was making revenue, the government was gonna eye it up and down, it’s common sense. They should’ve looked more carefully into the terms and conditions of the files being shared and made that prominent to its users. For example, when YouTube first came up, people were putting up copyrighted songs, making their own music videos to them, putting up bootlegs of movies, etc and now over the years, in my opinion YouTube has become more strict in the matter and flags that users account. I think if Megaupload did something like that, the matter could’ve been more understood and the site would still be up and running.

  7. this is new to me. this aticle was very interesting that a company can do that. I do see that the web site was wrong. Poeple on the internet should be able to trust what they do online. It is amazing how company like magaupload think they have i right to give things away for free that are not theirs.

  8. MegaUpload is a “digital locker”, It allows users to store files without any questions asked.It’s one of the services they provide and so any unauthorized downloads of movies and TV shows by registered users is not their responsibility. See it as a “Gun store”, they sell firearms to their customers but cannot be held responsible for how they use it.

  9. I don’t have a problem with people illegally downloading music or movies off the internet, but I do see how movie/music studios would get upset when a site is making 175 million dollars from their product and their not getting a dime.

  10. I myself, used to enjoy megaupload. I used it many, many times to watch television shows and movies that were not available on netflix, hulu, on demand etc. I completely understand the governments stance on shutting down megaupload, but as an avid television watcher, I was upset when I heard the news of megaupload shutting down. Of course video and music piracy will always be illegal/frowned upon, but it does not mean that people will stop doing it!

  11. I believe that the owners of Megaupload knew exactly what some people would do with their website. They just saw the profit and probably didn’t care about the laws that were being broken. A lot of people see things happen and think just because they weren’t the ones actually doing it that it makes them innocent. As anyone with half a brain would know this is not always the case. They were as guilty as the people stealing and sharing the files.

  12. When a company chooses to open up and allow customers to purchase and share material they then become fully responsible for the protection of the customer themself. Think of it in terms of if one owned a bank account and someone stole your idenity, it is not fully on you but also on the bank and the bank tends to fully refund the money you have lost. This being said Megaupload, like a bank, should hold themselves fully responsible for the piracy of their members and refund them with whatever they have lost.

  13. Yes, the owners of Megauload were responsible for the piracy of some of their members because the website should of had restrictions for the users who were disobeying the “rules” of the webite. Like other websites, like YouTube, Facebook, or Myspace who has the policy of “Terms and Conditions”, Megauload should of pursued of having that policy before the website turned into chaos.

  14. I believe Megaupload could’ve strengthen their terms and conditions. They could’ve also took down the wrong videos that their members were posting. It was much more megaupload could have done so yes I believe they are responsible.

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