Just hours after MegaUpload.com was suspended by a Justice Department operation, we receive word that the Justice Department website went down in a DDoS (distributed denial of service attack) organized by Anonymous in response to the shutdown. But the real story is about the due process of custody, that the legal files that MegaUpload hosts, for both clients and ad-based users, are GONE.
For those paying attention to SOPA/PIPA and piracy, the very fact that the Justice Department goes after MegaUpload.com without SOPA or PIPA shows that those laws are unnecessary. It further shows us that the law was just media corporations looking for free legal retainers.
The Justice Department has a rather loose leash already. And they can permanently shut down websites any time they really want to.
What bothers me the most aren’t the conspiracy allegations, the millions of dollars in revenue, or the widespread conspiracy to share petabytes of stolen art. It’s the untold number of legal users on MegaUpload who were stripped of any ability to log in, find their site, and then rescue their files.
After all, the narrative from legal Megaupload users is the site was a decent filehost, offered a parking spot for files, and many a net-biz relies on these hosts who offer nothing more than annoying banner advertising for precious cargo space. In a pinch, MegaUpload is honestly life-saving for many reasons. I used it in a pinch to get a file from Point A to Point B during a network nightmare, and saved many.
So I can understand the pain when legal users’ temporary/permanent files vanish, and there is NO legal recourse to retrieve them yet. I don’t expect emailing askdoj@doj (dot) gov is going to reply with “oh just a second, let me log-in and see if I can find your file.”
Any legal user that utilized MegaUpload yesterday is pretty much chucked today. No comments from any media agency on this premise, just wide-ranging and rather thin reporting on piracy, money, cars, etc., and a list of movies they had online.
The feds may have been proper in nabbing cybercriminals, but the outdated process of shutting down an entire website without warning is a legal question for years to come. Can the feds shut down an entire site just because of copyright violations? After all, this is the EXACT problem anti-SOPA folks went black on Wednesday about.
That to kill a pesky flea, you flamethrower the entire basket of kittens.
Same goes for MegaUpload, because allegations of conspiracy prove that they had to have legal users to cover their site. And those users should have some ability to recover or protect their data, rather it be confiscated en masse to the feds.
Is it illegal search and seizure, that the feds get to investigate your files? Say you were an upstanding individual, do you have any ability to recover your files? It’s much different from say a speakeasy or illegal casino, where I can easily find legal precedent for confiscation of property. But what about a massive website that boasts 4% of all Internet traffic? Does DOJ get to claim all of it was illegal traffic?
Sounds a little more like British Maritime law, imo.
According to the FBI’s MegaIndictment (pdf), MegaUpload’s activity is far from innocent. I’ve got no beef with the charges. There’s a lot of fire there. But what criminal process allows the confiscation of every single piece of material from the site that without those “conspirators” would be an otherwise legal site? See, the complaint was about RICO, which in turn “allowed” the feds to hit the site and take it down without a single whimper.
Proper users who were locked out have no rights, and that’s just wrong.
I’m all for catching crooks, but the process in which this all went down reminds us how antiquated our cybercrime protocols are already, and how easily your rights are lost in the wake of criminal cases that must be prosecuted without error. And someone should speak up for the other users who have no remedy. In fact, it’s a bipartisan issue in my book, that we should investigate the process of confiscation of data, that physical servers are hardly the same thing as Al Capone’s bookkeeper ledger.
The real criminal questions about MegaUpload surround their revenue stream, and less about the actual files they are sharing. And in the building of a case against them, there had to be better methods of confiscating their money scheme than banning everyone from their site.
MegaUpload’s indictment is a novel, prepared for a Grand Jury due to its explicit complexity. Normal citizens would be baffled, having to learn computers and ad revenue streams in a courtroom. So as you read it, you’ll realize it was written as a primer, to explain what these cats were doing, and why it was a conspiracy. And in a very, very small sense, this helps justify the intent of SOPA/PIPA legislation, in cutting off revenue resources which drive file-sharing. But again, just like SOPA, it has no volume control.
In fact, the root of the MegaUpload raid was to blanket-impound everything (Including a sassy 2010 Mercedes-Benz ML65), then sift through it like Osama bin Laden’s desktop. A spaghetti charge like this highlights more political motivation rather than a coincidental day-after-largest-online-protest-evar-arrest… This was no coincidenc. Especially after reading the indictment, you’d think these guys were Cosa Nostra. (And they could be contemporaries yet).
But based upon the multiple charges, real piracy prosecution rested less with file-sharing, and more with revenue design. We can see this easily if we stop worrying about a whiny film distributor with lobbyists. But since we have no brains in Congress regarding the Internet, we’re unable to comprehend that the movie has never been the prize … It’s always been the bait.
The legal standing to quarantine and confiscate files unrelated to the case at hand is hard to justify. If the feds have a beef with ghosting illegal downloads, I’m okay with it. But what about real legal users of MegaUpload?
Will they ever get their files back? Since MegaUpload.com is a virtual location, you can’t get your files back unless they re-open the site itself for retrieval. And I’m betting that even if you ask, the FBI’s protocol isn’t to email you your files back, even though by law, any evidence held for a criminal case must be returned upon the conclusion of the case. Or did the feds not think that far before canning the site?
Heck ,who needs SOPA? Let the legal chaos begin.