With the popular MegaUpload file sharing website shut down, several other online locker services, all of which have legal uses, are limiting their features or closing down entirely in an apparent effort to avoid MegaUpload's fate: a forced shutdown by the United States Department of Justice, FBI, and National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center, and the arrests of its operators.
MegaUpload's larger-than-life creator Kim DotCom awaits a bail hearing in New Zealand, and at least one of his cohorts faces extradition to the United States for trial. As one might expect, this has freaked out the operators of several other locker services, which similarly allow strangers to exchange media and other files, often using links that expire after a certain length of time.
TorrentFreak counted nine locker services that curtailed file sharing in the wake of the MegaUpload prosecutions - in some cases by ceasing to offer "rewards" programs that gave users a financial incentive to share popular content.
Here's how locker services have responded, in what cannot be a coincidence:
- Filesonic and FileServe: Users can only download files they uploaded.
- Uploaded.to: Users with unmasked IP addresses in the United States can no longer use it.
- VideoBB, VideoZer, FileJungle, UploadStation, FilePost: These are reportedly ending rewards programs and deleting lots of accounts and files.
- Uploadbox: All files hosted on the service will be deleted on January 30.
Three big ones, RapidShare, MediaFire and Dropbox - all of which let you download entire albums, discographies, movies, and so on if you have the link where they are shared or have been granted to another user's account - appear to be operating as normal. [Update 1:53pm ET: A tipster contacted Evolver.fm with news that MediaFire has apparently deleted all of the music from the Angrychairs Redux music blog, so it might be spooked too.]
"We differ from services such as Megaupload in many crucial points," said a Rapidshare spokesman in a statement (.pdf) provided to Evolver.fm. "One of the main differences between RapidShare and services such as Megaupload is the fact that we never had the intention to abscond from legal access of any authority. RapidShare AG was founded in Switzerland and in fact, it was always located at the address given in the company details and was always run under real names without any anonymous intermediate businesses. The radical measures against Megaupload were apparently required since the situation there had been totally different."
So, Rapidshare (and presumably the others) are legal because they have good contact information? It will be interesting to see how this plays out.
Also interesting: the baffling array of celebrities who endorsed MegaUpload locker service in the above video. Will.i.am, Jamie Foxx, Kim Kardashian, Puff Daddy, and the rest can no longer use it to "send files across the globe" - even if they have the rights to do so. Only a fool would imagine that such a massive service consisted purely of musicians and movie stars sending files to each other. As such, we wonder whether these celebs actually understood that MegaUpload was used primarily to "steal" from them, to quote the usual Hollywood jargon.
Now that the U.S. has thrown down the gauntlet, we'll see what happens with online media sharing sites that still allow files to pass between people.
One big question remains: Why did we need the SOPA/PIPA anti-piracy bills in the first place, if the U.S. already had the authority to shut down MegaUpload - ostensibly the entire point of those bills? We don't know, and we won't speculate, but someone surely will.