Casus belli: Megaupload

Image from AnonOps.blogspot.com

Yesterday the FBI shutted down Megaupload, one of the biggest and most popular file repositories in the Internet. The reason, copyright infringement, as published in the Wall Street Journal, since authorities claim Megaupload Ltd. websites generated more than $175 million in criminal proceeds and caused more than half a billion dollars in harm to copyright owners.

This, of course, had its consequences. You can’t shut down the 72th site on the Internet (according to Alexa, checked on January 20, 2012) and expect nothing will happen. But may be what the US Government did not expect was the size of the reaction, which according to AnonOps was the biggest in history:

Within minutes of the site being shut down, and DOJ releasing its statement, Anonymous sprang into action and started taking down a ton of sites — including websites for the DOJ, the US Copyright Office, Universal Music, the RIAA, the MPAA and a bunch of other sites.

(…)

Anonymous launches largest attack ever, crippling government and music industry sites. Hacktivists with the collective Anonymous are waging an attack on the website for the White House after successfully breaking the sites for the Department of Justice, Universal Music Group, RIAA and Motion Picture Association of America.

The list of sites taken down includes justice.gov, MPAA.org, UniversalMusic.com, RIAA.org, FBI.gov, Whitehouse.gov and WMG.com, and also non-american sites of associations and institutions in favour of copyright laws like SOPA, PIPA, Hadopi or Ley Sinde-Wert. A nuclear-size DDoS to fight for the freedom of Internet, and which might get us (Internet users) in a total war.

But at the same time, what thousands of Megaupload users were actually worried about wasn’t Internet’s freedom, at all. Their tweets and Facebook statuses asked about alternatives, where to find now their songs, movies and TV shows. As Ricardo Gallir, from Meneame.net, tweeted last night, those people show their understanding of the Internet is not better than politicians’. And actually, shutting down Megaupload is not going to end piracy, the same way shutting down Napster didn’t. You just need Google and a few minutes to find hundreds of alternatives still working, either streaming websites or torrent links or P2P software.  Technically, the industry lost this battle long time ago.

So lets clarify this. The problem here is not Megaupload itself. The problem is there is a lack of “legal” offer for what people is asking for: easy access to top contents in high quality at low prices. Here is when the industry folks say “that’s impossible, it costs good money to create a good product”. Well, according to the same industry folks, Megaupload was able to make millions, Cuevana is making millions, Series Yonkis is making millions, Taringa is making millions and lets just say that if all those sites are still online is because they generate big enough revenues to make it worth being against a couple of laws.

According to those numbers, the business seem to work. How is it possible that this websites created by young programmers with nothing but a computer and a server are able to make all this money, but the industry doesn’t go digital? Does it make sense when they say they are loosing millions because of this websites but they don’t offer anything similar? Can’t they see market needs? Apparently the biggest problem is that the industry can’t or doesn’t want to adapt to the new times. I imagine of horse sellers would have had strong such a lobby as the music industry we wouldn’t be driving cars right now.

The other problem comes from the concept of sharing. It doesn’t really makes sense that I can buy a paper book, read it and then lend it to my friends but I can’t do that if I buy the book in PDF. Is it because my friends can download their own copy? No, because the industry wouldn’t allow me to just upload the file to my server so friends can read it there but not download it. Is it because it makes it possible for people that aren’t actually my friends to read the book without paying? Shouldn’t be a problem, since I can buy a book in the store and give it to the first person I see out in the street.

It seems obvious to me that industry and politicians are facing the problem the wrong way. They are trying to stop the unstoppable, when they should be looking for the way to get on board.

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