Megaupload boss Kim Dotcom has decided to fight back against US charges of copyright theft that cost him his liberty and froze his fortune in New Zealand. The founder of groundbreaking file sharer Megaupload has launched an online song pointing out that his arrest was part of a larger attack on Internet rights.
It is the act of the defiance itself and Dotcom’s determination to resist the pressure he is under that may have considerable financial ramifications not merely to Dotcom but to the larger media industry.
As Dotcom himself points out, the rollout of movies that tends to occur in leisurely waves is a major culprit in copyright “theft.” Asian viewers, for instance, may not be willing to wait six months in the digital era for a particular cinematic event to come their way.
Additionally, technology is making it easier for bootlegging to occur. The twin difficulties of an outmoded business model and the advancement of technology are providing an almost existential challenge to those who want to maintain the system as it is.
Before Megaupload was shut down, Dotcom and his colleagues were working on a new business model that would have allowed musicians to offer their music directly to users via his services. This is likely the future of media, one that will bypass or at least minimize traditional middlemen, especially if such middlemen work in ways that are actively hostile to the customers apt to purchase their products.
Additionally, Dotcom is well on his way to turning himself into a kind of technological martyr. The argument he is making with increased force is that his company was shut down based on charges of copyright evasion that were not yet proven. In other words, the sentence – confiscation of his life’s work, a billion dollar company – preceded the trial.
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He points out in a recent interview that Megaupload processed billions of files and only perhaps 100 million were the type that might be perceived as potential copyright violations. But US law prohibited Megaupload officers from asking users what was in their files.
If copyright holders were so upset, he asks, why didn’t they sue Megaupload? Megaupload was a middleman itself, allowing 200 million customers to store files. The servers on which the files are stored have been confiscated, and both the US Justice Dept. and the FBI wants to erase the files. It is hard to avoid recognizing the taint of vindictiveness.
Dotcom has also pointed out that dozens of other companies, some a lot larger than his, offer roughly the same kind of services yet they have not been attacked, nor shut down.
Dotcom’s judge has had to recuse himself from the case for referring to the United States as the “enemy.” There is apparently swelling sentiment for Dotcom and his cause in New Zealand.
The music video itself is deceptively simple and reveals the reason that the powers-that-be chose to go after Kim Dotcom. At 400 pounds and six foot five, he is literally a big target and someone whom his enemies no doubt hoped could be easily demonized.
What other CEO in his position would launch a music video voiced by himself? He is a strange mixture of naif and genius.
In the video, Dotcom himself sings about fighting back against those that would reduce information flow on the Internet. He thus links his case to the larger concern about Internet freedom.
But in a larger sense, the case has already transcended Dotcom. Those in Hollywood and elsewhere who have looked to the Megaupload case to provide them with a definitive end-date when it comes to copyright fraud may indeed have created a watershed event.
In fact, it may mark the beginning of the end of the 20th century model of copyright as much as the demise of Megauploads. Copyright in the 21st century may look nothing like copyright in the 20th. The ramifications are substantial, and will have important financial as well as sociopolitical ramifications.
You can download the song and join the movement at http://www.kim.com