*Disclamer* This is opinion, so make up your own mind
Recently, the FBI shut down Megaupload and Megavideo, both well-known file sharing services. These shutdowns happened under the pretense of copyright infringement by the company’s owners, and the FBI’s belief that the website was hosting and sharing large amounts of pirated videos and music.
Well, this is partially true, I mean, we all know that Megavideo hosted plenty of videos which shouldn’t have been up there; but, here’s a truth – Youtube hosts thousands upon thousands of videos and audio files which contain copyrighted work. ”How dare he attack Youtube!”, you say; but the truth of the matter is that Youtube is not at all innocent in the world of piracy. In fact, no one is, if they’re on the internet. We are are all going to come across some kind of pirated material one way or another as we traverse the net. It’s going to happen. So, why does Youtube get to keep going, yet Megavideo has been shut down?
Firstly, no website can track all of the user uploaded data which it hosts. To assume that one could, is silly. Therefore, to arrest the site’s founders under the pretense that they knowingly participated in copyright infringement, is quite silly. If we’re blaming site owners for user uploaded content now, we’d better start arresting a lot of people at Youtube, Vimeo, and other sites which host user created data. Even with a team of people checking videos, and unless you institute a human filtering process to check every video before it goes live, there is no way to ensure that everything uploaded to a site like Megavideo will be legit. While this seems like a cop-out, Youtube uses it everyday as an excuse. The law will say otherwise, of course; but the law bends to the highest bidder. Plenty of large scale media corporations have a stake in Youtube. None had such stake in Megavideo.
So that brings us to the REAL reason that Megaupload was likely shut down, and that is Megabox:
Megabox was meant to be a music cloud hosting and publishing format for independent artists. Megaupload had stated that they had partners in Amazon mp3 and Gracenote, and were planning to launch the service to allow artists to upload their own work, sell it in a cloud based format, and keep 90% of the profits. This doesn’t sound like a model that a big record label would very much like, does it?
“But they were pirating!”, you say. ”They would have done that with music, too!”. Again, this argument doesn’t make sense. There is no fool proof way to control user uploaded data. However, controlling music for copyright would be even easier, thanks to services which can identify a song and tag it (such as that used by Youtube, although Youtube’s algorhithm for doing so sucks BAD), and then mark it for deletion if someone does not own the copyright. This is harder to do with Video, hence why Youtube still has such a plethora of content not owned by the uploaders. So, using a tagging and recognition system, copyrighted music could have been found and tagged, while artists could have uploaded and sold their music in a cloud based format in which they would get the most money back over any deal they can currently enter with a digital aggregator such as iTunes (in which an artist gets roughly 70% of a sale of an mp3). This service was slated to roll out this year, and Megaupload was shut down on January 20th. Does that sound like reason for a shutdown? It does to me.
The shutdown triggered Anonymous’ cracking of the MPAA and RIAA’s websites, as well as the Department of Justice. Shots fired, kids. You want to see what will happen if you keep fucking with the Internet? You’re going to find out, real fast.
Listen, we all know that piracy is more rampant now, than ever. We know that plenty of people aren’t paying for things they get on the Internet. But, we also know that people WILL pay for things on the internet, if paying for those products is easy, fast, accessible and affordable. I personally believe that $10 for a digital album is too much (and I’m a musician!), and it stops me from buying many albums. For $10, I would rather purchase a CD from an artist and support them directly. So, I believe that to sell our products digitally and reduce piracy, we must find a good price point to sell at, and make the product very, very accessible. Megabox would have been another offering that could have done that. There are others, of course, such as Bandcamp.com, which make it easy for an artist to upload and sell their works – but Megabox would have been a first in cloud-based music which was easily accessible to the artist.
Whether this is truly the reason that Megavideo was shut down or not, we’ll never know; but the fact is that the FBI works as the police for the RIAA and the MPAA, and major media corporations, who DO NOT like the democratization of tools for creative people to share their work with the world. Why would they? If they don’t control all the ways money can be made from created works, they don’t make all the money. If an artist can self-publish to millions without a record label, why would that record label stay viable, unless they were to change and evolve their model? The record labels won’t do that, and so they instead get the FBI to do their dirty work, and do it under the pretense of copyright infringement, which only drives piracy up. More sites like Megavideo will appear, more material will be freely shared, and you WILL NOT stop this process. You MUST adapt, or die. The Record labels refuse to do this, and therefore, need to die. They’ve had their time, and they’ve overspent, underpaid artists, and they cling to a dying business model as if it will someday be viable again. It will not. It will be the independent artists, doing things without these huge, monolithic labels, who will create the new market. We are more educated about the music business than ever at this point, and we’re not getting screwed anymore.
I leave it to you to make up your own mind about this situation, which you of course should. I as always ask that you support independent artists, and continue to support yourself, and be educated. This is how we can be viable and successful, unlike our corporate counterparts, who are currently riding a quickly sinking ship to the bottom of the sea.