This week’s furuore over the proposed Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IPs Act (PIPA) which saw Wikipedia and various other sites ‘go dark’ for a day on Wednesday in protest has been shoved even further into the public conscious by the shut down of popular file hosting site Megaupload.
The FBI have charged seven of its staff and arrested four in New Zealand on charges of copyright infringement and “conspiracy to commit racketeering”.
The US Department of Justice issued a press release on the arrests and allegations, which stated:
Seven individuals and two corporations have been charged in the United States with running an international organized criminal enterprise allegedly responsible for massive worldwide online piracy of numerous types of copyrighted works, through Megaupload.com and other related sites, generating more than $175 million in criminal proceeds and causing more than half a billion dollars in harm to copyright owners…
On the arrests:
Dotcom, Batato, Ortmann and van der Kolk were arrested today in Auckland, New Zealand, by New Zealand authorities, who executed provisional arrest warrants requested by the United States. Bencko, Echternach and Nomm remain at large.
And on assets:
Today, law enforcement also executed more than 20 search warrants in the United States and eight countries, seized approximately $50 million in assets and targeted sites where Megaupload has servers in Ashburn, Va., Washington, D.C., the Netherlands and Canada. In addition, the U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va., ordered the seizure of 18 domain names associated with the alleged Mega conspiracy.
The arrests have received opposition too. Joe Cohen, CEO of Europe’s leading online fan-to-fan ticket exchange service Seatwave, issued this statement:
The closing down of Megaupload.com and the arrest of its founder and three other employees shows that we don’t need new punitive civil legislation that goes around due process in the form of SOPA and PIPA. The FBI is already exercising its powers in other countries and taking down sites, as in the case of Richard O’Dwyer, the student behind TVShack who is being extradited to the US to face charges.
It remains to be seen if there is any real victim to piracy. If in fact the film and music industries really were losing millions due to piracy then they would stop investing in new content and that clearly has not happened. Even great services like Spotify are unable to bridge the divide as byzantine distribution models push fans to other sources.
The FBI, however, was keen to point out that the operation has nothing to do with the SOPA/PIPA controversy. It doesn’t. Not directly. But TechDrink agrees with Cohen and thinks it demonstrates that SOPA/PIPA are utterly unnecessary.
If the FBI, DOJ and other law enforcement bodies have the power to do this already…why do we need an admittedly well intended but poorly thought out Act that could endanger the future freedom of the internet?
The law has enough power to shut down a site, arrest suspects and seize assets if copyright infringement is suspected. Consider, too, the case of the UK student who is going to be extradited to the US to face charges simply because he ran a site that only linked to copyright material hosted elsewhere.
In a nutshell, there is no need for SOPA or PIPA. These cases – and many more like them – simply underline that, perhaps more so than Wikipedia going dark, Google blacking out its logo and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg posting a well hidden note of support on his personal profile.