Mr. Megaupload Sticks His Head Up One Indictment Too High

The news of SOPA’s likely defeat by Internet activists contrasts bizarrely with the arrest of one of the Web’s most flagrant and flamboyant copyright violators.  Even as the massed forces of Google, Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia and other popular Web interests laid siege to proposed government restrictions of their freedom, the US Justice Department and the FBI terminated the freedom of the notorious Kim Dotcom, founder of Megaupload, an Internet locker service that facilitates anonymous transfer of movie, music, text and other files.

The indictment against Dotcom and six cohorts, issued by a grand jury, states that they criminally conspired to infringe copyrights to the tune of $500 million. They face 20 years in prison. Dotcom’s website has been shuttered. If you click on megaupload.com you’ll get the above banner.

It will be interesting to see whether the Internet community, so passionate in its defense of freedom – including the freedom to link to alleged infringers (see Game Over: Google Insists on Linking to Pirate Sites) – will rally to the defense of the Megaupload gang. Will Dotcom and Co. be considered brethren to the innocent and ignorant folks who unknowingly download copyrighted music and movies? Or will the immense scale of megaupload’s allegedly illegal traffic cause the Googles, Facebooks and Twitters to distance themselves from the defendants?  It will be instructive to see how it all plays out.

It will also be instructive to see whether the Justice Department’s indictment against the Megauploaders will stick. The case of Pirate Bay, formerly the world’s largest BitTorrent file-sharing tracker, might shed some light on these speculations. In 2009 four men involved in Pirate Bay’s website were arrested, tried, sentenced to a year in jail and ordered to pay about $4.5 million in damages. After their release, the website (apparently under new management) was relaunched from a venue in the Ukraine, then moved again to Netherlands where it is now headquartered in Cyberbunker, a military nuclear warfare bunker built by NATO to withstand a nuclear war and now used as a webhosting data center according to TorrentFreak.

But there’s more: in 2009 Sweden’s Pirate Party seized on the high profile Pirate Bay suit to rally supporters to a victory in the European Union’s parliamentary elections, winning a seat.  (See Swedish Pirate Booty: a Seat in Europe’s Parliament).

Ever since Robin Hood and his merry band roamed Sherwood Forest, the noble, romantic bandido has been a staple of our imagination. So, the reward of a short sentence, a modest fine, and a seat in government for Kim Dotcom will come as no surprise.

For a detailed account of the arrest of Mr. Dotcom and his companions, read Founder of Shuttered Web Site Sought Limelight by Kevin J. O’Brien in the New York Times.

Richard Curtis

Piracy is an extremely controversial and complicated subject. For a complete archive of E-Reads postings pro and con, visit Pirate Central.

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