The Weirdest Piracy Haven Of Them All: Goodbye For Now, Megaupload
More than 24 hours after the U.S. Department of Justice raid on the New Zealand offices of popular file-sharing service Megaupload, a lot of us are still finding ourselves awe-struck. It’s no surprise being as how the site, which sports 50 million daily visitors and accounts for a whopping 4% of all internet traffic, had been on the hit list of music industry execs and the U.S. government for some time. But with an executive pulled straight from the very industry it threatens, endorsements from A-list celebrities and a $2.4 million monthly yacht budget, Megaupload is not your average piracy haven. Behind the curtain, it’s a bizarre scene looking like something out of a 90’s gangsta rap video.
That “insider” executive, at least according to Megaupload, is famed rap producer Swizz Beatz, who was listed as Megaupload’s CEO in the days leading up to the site being taken down by law enforcement. The true nature of his involvement with the site is still a mystery, though last year he did join other music celebs like Mary J. Blige, Kanye and Will.i.am in singing the site’s praises, much to the chagrin of music distributor Universal Music Group, the prime instigator behind the DOJ’s recent raid. UMG later filed a copyright complaint to force the video down despite written legal agreements from the musicians, only to be met with a lawsuit (pending) from Megaupload.
That’s just scratching the surface of the weird world of Megaupload, however. The charges being brought against its 7 executives, headed up by multimillionaire Kim “Dotcom” Schmitz, have brought to light some strange and revealing details about the site and its operators.
• The DMCA compliant tool Megaupload had installed to help major US institutions pull copyrighted files from Mega servers was, of course, flawed. If a user uploaded something like, say, The Hangover, Megaupload would search its servers for a matching file. It would delete the link submitted despite knowing about tens or hundreds or even thousands of other links to the same file. Basically it was a super clever fuck you to the copyright holder.
• The US government is clinging to evidence that Megaupload’s owner, Kim Dotcom, shared the song “Nah” by 50 Cent featuring Mobb Deep in 2006. Seriously. This is one of their major claims. “On or about December 3, 2006, KIM DOTCOM distributed a Megaupload.com link to a music file entitled “05-50_cent_feat._mobb_deep-nah-c4.mp3.”
• Megaupload sought to download and re-upload all of YouTube’s content onto its own site, Megavideo, to mask the pirated content that lurked beneath its front page.
• “Mega Conspiracy has paid more than $65 million to hosting providers around the world for computer leasing, hosting, bandwidth… Mega Conspiracy affirmatively chose to financially reward specific uploaders of infringing copies of copyrighted content.”
• Thanks to their rewards program for loyal uploaders, they paid out 55k to a user who had 5,845 files of Vietnamese content, at least 10 DVD rips, some porn, and (what looked like) an Italian TV series.
• Megaupload spent $2.4 million on yacht rentals in June 2011 alone.
• The US government is after $175 million in assets, including 59 different bank accounts. Many of them Chinese. Two are from Citibank.
• The US is looking for at least 14 Benzes, a Predator statue, two 108 inch TVs, a Seadoo, a 1957 Cadillac, a Maserati, and a Mini Cooper.
• Kim owned a Rolls Royce Phantom with a license plate that read “GOD.” Some of the tags on his other cars included: GUILTY, STONED, GOOD, CEO, MAFIA, and HACKER.
Since its demise, Megaupload’s website seemed to have reappeared, accessible via an IP address posted on forums and IRC channels. But Torrentfreak warns that such addresses are more than likely imposters, scams or both (you should always be careful when talking to strange IP’s anyway). The real Megaupload is “trying to get back online”: though, even while their execs are hanging out inside a cell. Whatever does ultimately happens to this odd piracy playground, however, is sure to play out in an interesting way.