There have been a few contenders for Beef Of The Week this week, but when it came down to it, nothing was quite as entertaining as the last seven days in the world of MegaUpload. I’m not 100% sure that an international operation, involving various law enforcement agencies, to arrest a group of men and shut down their company can strictly be referred to as a ‘beef’, but let’s go with it anyway.
So, anyway, as support for legislation in the US aiming to create new powers to block copyright infringing websites waned in Congress after a week of protest online, the US showed it could shut down such a website anyway. Although it should be noted that in this case MegaUpload had many of its servers based in America and its executives are accused of more serious crimes than just copyright infringement, both helping justify such a dramatic swoop.
The jewel in the crown was the arrest of MegaUpload founder Kim ‘Dotcom’ Schmitz, upon whom police swooped at his New Zealand mansion. Aside from the scale and suddenness of the action, it’s Schmitz who elevates this above your usual tedious copyright case. Whenever he’s spoken in the past, the German entrepreneur and convicted criminal has seemed larger than life, but as more details about his glamorous lifestyle, paid for by the millions of dollars he’s earned from the Mega empire, were revealed, it became apparent quite how much this is true. For one thing, he’s 6’7″ and weighs 21.5 stone. For another, he has a penchant for private jets, bubble baths and celebrities, not to mention the interesting array of number plates on his fleet of cars.
His size was the reason his lawyers argued he should be allowed out on bail pending his extradition to the US – he isn’t, they argued, the kind of guy who can sneak through customs – but the judge refused anyway, fearing Schmitz would use criminal connections to smuggle himself back to Germany, where extradition would be more difficult. Two of his associates were bailed though, with a third due to have a decision made today.
With all this going on, MegaUpload dropped a lawsuit against Universal over the previously reported YouTube takedown of the file-transfer company’s all-star promotional song and video, and it was revealed that Schmitz was also preparing for the release of his debut album, which is being worked on by LA-based production company Beets & Produce as we speak.
Perhaps most interesting of all, however, was the affect the swoop on MegaUpload had on other file-sharing websites, some of which limited their services in various ways following the arrests. Filesonic and Fileserver seemingly went furthest, blocking users from doing anything other than uploading and downloading content form their own accounts. How long this will last and what effect it will have long term is not yet clear – although the RIAA is confident that it will boost legit services, Torrentfreak reports that unlicensed sites which have not scaled back their operations are enjoying the boom in users.