We’ve recently had a perfect example of the dangers of giving copyright holder more powerful weapons in their war on “piracy.” Megaupload works as a service where a user can upload content and allow other people to download it or share it at a later point in time. A good amount of the material is, in fact, copyrighted. There are versions of Game of Thrones and plenty of other videos. This services has totally legitimate uses though. There are competing services that you can use, something like DropBox or GoogleDocs which works in a slightly different manner. The users is required actively share the files. In Megaupload the uploader doesn’t have to actively share the file it can be accessed by many people.
MegaUpload would be a sure fire target if SOPA or Protect IP gets passed. What would happen is that MegaUpload would effectively be blacklisted from the Internet and cease to exist if they can’t fix the problem within five days. Additionally, any payments they would receive can also be blocked. This of course isn’t anything new, but recently Universal Music decided to use a DMCA take down notice to remove a MegaUpload video from YouTube.
This happens on a regular basis. These companies have programs that look for copyrighted material and then any offending material is issued a take down notice, which YouTube is required by federal law to comply with. There’s just one problem in this case. MegaUpload claims to own all of the copyrights to this song and video. Universal was issuing a false take down notice. As a result MegaUpload is now suing Universal.
What can we take from this? Well, that giving the authority of content control to companies that have an incentive to silence material that is harmful to their business is a bad thing. In this case, we have a company abusing state authorized power to censor a music video about another company. We should expect this type of behavior to continue if these copyright holders are given additional authority to censor the internet.
It appears that not only are record labels abusing their authority, but the DHS had seized a website, Dajaz1.com, for over a year without any sort of recourse. Particularly troubling in this case is that the blog did contain copyrighted material, but it was given to the blogger by the record labels and artists.
As users of the internet we all should be extremely concerned about what is happening on the internet in the name of Copyright. Freedom of culture is something we all enjoy and relish, however actions by Universal and the DHS severely threaten our cultural freedom and ability to have public discourse on the usage of technology. MegaUpload was using famous pop stars to stake a claim that they are a legitimate company. Using a law in an illegal manner was trying to silence that conversation.