Megaupload Shutdown: Are Legitimate File Sharing Sites Under Threat?

Filesharing

The Federal action against file sharing site Megaupload must be sending shivers through legitimate file sharing, backup and collaboration sites. As well as shutting down access to pirated films and music the Government’s action has prevented legitimate file storage and people who have backed up their photographs etc now find they cannot retrieve them.

Similar file sharing sites were quick to act. Uploaded.to has blocked US access to its site entirely, with a message saying “sorry about that”.

Criminal Liability

Experts said that the sites were attempting to show that they were taking piracy seriously. “If those websites are found to be communicating the works – ie facilitating sharing – then that’s the key risk in terms of criminal liability,” said Adam Rendle, a copyright lawyer from London-based law firm Taylor Wessing speaking to the BBC.

Filesonic, which is based in the UK and Hong Kong, has not released a statement about its move to block sharing. However, customers visiting the website were greeted with a message stating simply: “All sharing functionality of Filesonic is now disabled. Our service can only be used to upload and retrieve files that you have uploaded personally.”

It’s not just the “fringe” file sharing services that are feeling the heat. Just a few days after the Megaupload action I received an email from SugarSync asking me my views on security and would I pay for added security.

Fear Of No Access

While business and responsible consumer related file sharing, backup and collaboration sites sites are growing and proving to be valuable cloud based platforms for business the fear of companies uploading their valuable data to the cloud only to have access withdrawn after a legal raid is enough to put a dampener on the whole sector.

While I don’t believe the major services such as Box and SugarSync will suffer a visit from people with gold badges, it does open up an interesting line of thought about online privacy. If I upload a pirated music CD to a site like Box and share that link with friends, I am doing exactly what people on Megaupload were doing.

To protect themselves services must monitor file sharing activity to detect any illegal behaviour but would they stop short of trying to access your data to see if it was illegal? Would they invade your privacy for the greater good of other clients?

Interesting times!

Kevin Tea is a journalist and marketing communications professional who has worked for some of the leading blue chip companies in the UK and Europe. In the 1990s he became interested in how emerging Internet-based technologies could change the way that people worked and became an administrator on the Telework Europa Forum on CompuServe. With other colleagues he took part in a four year European Commission sponsored project to look at the way that the Internet could benefit remote communities. His blog is a resource for SMEs who want to use cloud computing and Web 2.0 technologies.