One of the largest file sharing services on the Internet was shut down yesterday in US legal action. The site is charged with violation of copyright laws. The indictment (now available on scribd) charges seven individuals with online piracy, four of whom have already been arrested in New Zealand.
This 72 page document also details the estimated cost to copyright holders at more than $500 million USD, while themselves allegedly earning $175 million in advertising revenue. The maximum penalty for the offenders could total 50 years of jail time.
Search warrants were executed in nine countries and 18 domain names, including mega-upload.com, were seized along with associated servers.
This indictment, unsealed right in the middle of impassioned debate over SOPA and PIPA quickly aroused the wrath of the Internet community, particularly Anonymous who have been exhorting their supporters to participate in Distributed Denial of Service attacks against US government web sites including the Dept of Justice, the FBI, the Copy right Office and the RIAA and MPAA, who were successfully taken offline as a result.
Akamai’s Real-time Web Monitor is currently showing attack traffic online at more than 24% above normal, giving some idea of the scope and geographic spread of public sympathy.
Whatever your views on online file sharing, there is no denying that this is an issue urgently in need of a solution. Consumers, artists and corporations seem to have devised workable methods in the music industry. A return to the generation of income through live performance has reinvigorated the music scene in many countries and cites.
Artists have harnessed the power of the Internet for a direct sales model that bypasses the increasingly archaic music industry and online music stores have evolved to facilitate this, with the participation of the corporations, providing music at reasonable cost. It could even be argued that the new iTunes Match service represents the capitulation of the music industry to the new reality of illegal downloads. This model is beginning to be repeated in the printed world too.
In the early 1900′s music publishers decried the arrival of the “player piano” as a threat to their way of life, when I was a kid, every record bore the legend “Home taping is killing music“, Hollywood was scared to death at the advent of the VCR…
The simple truth is, technology ever advances and with it come new opportunities. Many consumers are taking advantage of those opportunities to access copyrighted material quickly, easily and cheaply (or for free). It is only by facilitating that behaviour backed by a forward-looking business model that the traditional industry can hope to survive into the future.
It’s true that you can’t fight the power, but the power has shifted.