Megaupload Bust Highlights Absurdity of SOPA/PIPA

Categories: Tech
DigitalTremorsHeader-1.jpg
Last week, just as two ill-conceived anti-piracy bills were disintegrating in Congress in the face of a massive online protest, the FBI, with help from foreign governments, was busting Megaupload, one of the biggest sources of pirated digital goods.

The timing was interesting, though the feds say it was unrelated to the debate over SOPA and PIPA, the bills that, among their many other problems, would have held innocent third parties like search engines and payments processors responsible for the actions of pirates.

The bust, which involved not only the arrests of several of Megaupload's officers, but also the seizures of domain names, equipment, and other assets, proved that there are already mechanisms in place to target pirates. Even if new legislation is needed to strengthen enforcement or patch holes in existing laws, that legislation need not be insane and need not transparently pander to the loopy desires of the media industry.

The people who ran Megaupload were alleged criminals, and they got busted. That's how it's supposed to work.

Which is not to say such actions are without their downsides. They're expensive, they're time-consuming, and some people get hurt who don't necessarily deserve it. But that's the price we pay for living in a constitutional democracy governed by due process of law. We don't hold the phone company responsible when criminals use its network to plan robberies; we shouldn't hold Google responsible when pirates have websites that show up in search results.

It's hard to sympathize much with the Megaupload customers who are now complaining that they lost data or money when the plug was pulled on the site. There's little doubt that Megaupload made the lion's share of its revenues from piracy, though the service was used for legitimate purposes as well (the feds say the operation's legit data-storage business was there mostly to provide a "veneer of legitimacy," but that seems to be overstating the case). What's more, anybody who used the service either knew or should have known that it was mainly devoted to piracy.

Not that it's fair that people lost out. It's possible the feds will set up a mechanism for returning data and fees to customers, but if they don't, or can't, them's the breaks. It's not the cops' fault, it's Megaupload's.

Dan Mitchell has written for Fortune, the New York Times, Slate, Wired, National Public Radio, the Chicago Tribune, and many others.

Follow us on Twitter at @TheSnitchSF and @SFWeekly
My Voice Nation Help
8 comments
Anon
Anon

Your article is twisted.  People were downloading files and paying for the service because they wanted the files and were willing to pay for them.  Hollywood refuses to give customers what they want and then attacks those customers and the people with the common sense and business insight to give those customers what they want.

A lot of movies and television shows will never be made available to the public.  And even major motion pictures and television shows are literally thrown away and destroyed by moronic studios and producers who can't pay attention to past projects, past creations.  TV shows as recent as the 1990s (or even the 2000s?) only exist as blurry, mediocre copies created by fans.  Famous movies are either never released on DVD or go quickly out of print.  Eventually many just die.

It's moronic attitudes like yours that are responsbile for the wholesale destruction of cinematic and television culture.

Fans shoud copy and distribute as much as they can to prevent such losses.

Studios and producers can't even act in their own self interest because they won't release shows to Netflix, YouTube, Hulu, etc., because they think it's terribly savvy to demand as much as they can and not get it, rather than distribute as much as they can and get what they can get.

To say nothing of DVDs that can't find distribution or audiences or stay in print because of the contemptible and wildly stupid device of splitting the world into video "zones"....

None
None

It is fine, this is a small step toward from the government, but will soon be a huge leap for us, the people of the United States of America, toward the government in opposition to them.

Pwhusmc
Pwhusmc

they will probably end up fineing them. It's all only about them getting their illegal cut!

Rigelito
Rigelito

Yes, It's megaupload fault, maybe we should also arrest the arm maker as their weapon are used to kill... but maybe they know it? that will be a crime.Or maybe the cars builder to make car that run way pass the speed limit and can kill people also? Don't tell me that they don't know that their car run faster than speed limit...I can't believe the hypocrit world where we live.

neutral_corner
neutral_corner

"We don't hold the phone company responsible when criminals use its network to plan robberies; we shouldn't hold Google responsible when pirates have websites that show up in search results."

Nor, apparently, do we hold phone companies responsible when they're complicit with government agencies who may or may not be violating the Constitution by wiretapping citizens' phone conversations without due process of law.

Now Trending

From the Vault

 

©2014 SF Weekly, LP, All rights reserved.
Loading...