It was hard to miss the coverage and attention devoted to the recent takedown of the illegal filesharing site megaupload.com. The sheer magnitude of copyrighted material that was being illegally shared on the site was newsworthy. There were also the added elements of the lavish lifestyle and dramatic arrest of megaupload’s founder. But the attention may be obscuring the greatest impact of law enforcement bringing down one of the Internet’s truly bad actors.
The facts of the megaupload case are straightforward. Ten days ago, the Department of Justice revealed that seven individuals involved in the operation of megaupload.com and related sites were indicted for operating a criminal enterprise responsible for “massive worldwide online piracy of copyrighted works.” Four of those indicted were taken into custody in New Zealand. The investigation was led by the FBI’s Intellectual Property Rights Unit, and was supported by multiple law enforcement agencies around the world.
Bringing down megaupload.com was a significant step in law enforcement’s efforts to protect copyrighted material online. But the true impact of the DOJ’s efforts goes beyond this case. Over the last week and a half, a number of prominent online storage sites (also known as “one-click hosting sites” or “cyberlockers”) have taken voluntary steps to prevent illegal file sharing on their sites. It is too soon to tell if these are permanent changes by these sites, or how many other sites will follow suit, but the initial and positive ripple effects from the megaupload case are clear.
BSA champions the rapid innovation we are seeing in online offerings and services. Sites that enable the legal storage and sharing of material are a good thing. And so is enforcing laws against criminal enterprises that profit from the illegal sharing of copyrighted material. After all the attention has died down, the most important impact of this case may well be that it makes clear that law and order extends to all areas of the web.