Filesonic, one of the top 10 file-sharing sites on the net, has disabled file-sharing features and restricted access to its cloud locker service following the Megaupload takedown. The site Uploaded.to has followed suit. But others are whistling nonchalantly. Rapidshare, which wants to reposition itself as an above-board personal storage and transfer service such as Dropbox or YouSendIt, said it wasn't concerned.
Like Megaupload, Filesonic doesn't require users to authenticate, and uses an affiliate rewards programme: both have now been suspended. Rapidshare and MediaFire by contrast, insisted no changes were required to their business.
Cloud file services and lockers are a boon to individuals and business, but the law has helped the unscrupulous get rich by acting irresponsibly. A number of the lockers are typically used for distributing porn or other media files, and have created difficulties for smaller creative businesses, especially those who don't have armies of lawyers or lobbyists, and huge budgets for enforcement found in Hollywood. The independent filmmaker Ellen Seidler illustrated the difficulties here. Piracy probably cost the popular indie film a DVD release.
Megaupload, the most popular of the 'virtual chop shops', was taken down last week, with arrests and seizures of property in New Zealand.
A detailed indictment alleges that Megaupload amassed $175m, boasted of a billion users, and became the 13th most popular site on the net, according to one ranking.
Law enforcement officials had tracked Megaupload's money movements for five years, and by 2010, he was making $115,000 a day. Among the property seized from Megaupload were almost 20 cars, with personalised number plates including MAFIA, STONED and GUILTY.
The site rewarded uploaders who it regarded as contributing 'quality' unlicensed material, and also ran a movie and porn streaming business off the stored content. The owners also delighted in ignoring copyright takedowns, creating multiple URLs for infringing material and after receiving infringement notices, would keep the file stored and available.
Conceptually, Dropbox performs the same service as a Megaupload. But by contrast, Dropbox requires authentication, caps uploads and downloads, and enforces its T&Cs on misuse of the account. Development work is focused on personal data sychronisation, not sharing. In other words, the potential infringement here is limited to lending a friend a DVD or book - it's not industrial scale piracy.
More recently, the Megaupload-a-likes have started to temper their marketing. Rapidshare ("secure data logistics"), MediaFire ("file sharing made simple"), Uploaded.to ("where you have to be uploaded to") both use affiliate rewards for downloaders and don't require registration.
But this shouldn't be rocket science to solve. As I pointed out last week, we only get unwelcome legislation such as SOPA, or press regulation (kite being flown by Leveson) if an industry can't clean up its own act. It should be evident that the real threats to the cloud – and legitimate services – come from the unscrupulous operators.
Former Napster attorney Chris Castle has proposed a set of guidelines that might help distinguish good guys from parasites, here. As a conversation starter, I've heard worse. ®