In the midst of SOPA and PIPA losing support, it looks like the anti-piracy attack just took another blow. Except this time it’s personal, and it hits close to home for many individuals whose source of entertainment streams via internet. Federal prosecutors cracked down on popular file-sharing sites Megaupload and Megavideo for copyright infringement on Thursday, shutting them down barely a day after the mass online blackout protesting against the Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect Intellectual Property Act. As of today, visitors to these sites will only see a message saying that the website has been seized from an order issued by a U.S. District Court.
The online streaming phenomena has seized our computer and TV screens over the past few years, and while retailers like Netflix and HuluPlus charge premiums for accessing their content, file-sharing sites like Megaupload and Megavideo have made it easy as pie to view the same stuff for free. How does it work? Users create a free account which allows them to seamlessly upload files of virtually any size. These files can then be shared by sending links or even Googled via “site:mediafire.com”. External sites like SideReel.com have conveniently served as the middle man, purging Megavideo links to the latest episodes of Grey’s Anatomy and others shortly after they air. Needless to say, the accessibility and expediency offered by these sites are hard to compete with, especially if you are a streaming company charging $8 a month (a reason we don’t all have Netflix yet…). After all – these sites get more than 50 million clicks a day!
So what’s the cost? As of now, $50 million in assets, the arrest of four company executives and the seizure of 18 domain names affiliated with Megaupload. But what is equally startling are the implications of this action, which perhaps not so coincidentally came at a tense time amidst the “World War Web”. The crackdown mimics the ambiguous intentions of the legislation, which many are concerned, will lead to internet censorship. In result, the fire surrounding this battle has just been fueled even more. Hackers have already attacked various sites for music and film industries that support SOPA and PIPA like the Department of Justice, RIAA and MPAA. Even more shocking is that by shutting down the site through “technicalities”, the FBI is merely flaunting the power to censor the internet without legislation. After all, who needs SOPA or PIPA when you can develop a simple domain name seizure strategy? Don’t expect to see the end of piracy wars just yet!