Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Gov't and IP, takedown of MegaUpload.com

It is an interesting coincidence that in the same week time frame that SOPA/PIPA are to be voted on here in the US, MegaUpload.com is taken offline and its owner being brought up on charges. The US Gov't has conveniently listed them on the home page of MegaUpload.com for us to reference. I think there a couple of interesting points to be made out of these recent events.
  • SOPA/PIPA are both the wrong tool for the right job. Certainly we expect the government to take steps to protect people's intellectual property (IP) and their copyrights. What we're challenged with, however, is the history of "personal use" when duplicating quality was a problem, and both the originators of the content and the people making personal copies were satisfied with the quality of the copy. Laws and content owners were satisfied (or at least told to be satisfied) with people making copies of media for their own use. Those who are old enough to remember... We copied each other's vinyl albums onto cassette tapes.  We made mix tapes from songs recorded from albums or the radio. We bought VCRs specifically to record our favorite TV programs from network, broadcast TV. And all was good, and the law was on our side. Only when technology improved to create near, or even exact, copies of the content were the content providers not satisfied with the laws of "personal use" and sought to change the laws. I would argue that they instead should keep focusing on managing the technology of content delivery. Yes, its a hard problem and one that is going to take a long period of time to resolve. Where content providers are challenged with delivering a product that can be easily copied and distributed, they should not be creating an onerous legal environment which has significant ramifications to more than just their content distribution.
  • Did MegaUpload.com do something illegal? They should likely be prosecuted for their role in promoting privacy. I say likely, because I'm not privy to the evidence the government has. In matters of prosecution for information security related things, they've been pretty good. The fact that Kim Dotcom barricaded himself in his mansion on the distant island (at least from the US authorities) of New Zealand probably says something about how he feels about his own business dealings as well. Not that its evidence of wrongdoing but...
  • Shuttering a site that is not used exclusively by evildoers is not a good solution. There should be a better method for dealing with shutting down sites which hold legitimate consumer data. While I believe MegaUpload intentionally catered to the people who wanted to share illegally copied content, I have to imagine that some of that 50 million user base statistic are legitimate users of a functional service. I believe, that similar to how failing banks are transitioned to new banks, sites and data should be transitioned to similar services. How that exactly happens, I'm not sure, and I'm sure it would be challenging, but the point is that consumers are left without their data because the government shut down a site that was providing services to law abiding citizens, unknowingly supporting a (likely) criminal enterprise. People's ownership and stewardship of their data is going to become more and more of an issue as our lives are increasingly data driven.
Comments? I'd love to hear them.

Chris
LABrat.com