The FBI collaborating with law enforcement authorities in Canada, Germany, the UK, the Netherlands and several other nations recently seized and shut down Megaupload.com and the various associated Mega websites owned by a man who embodied gasconade in equal proportion to his body size, Kim Dotcom. Dragged from a prodigiously secured safe room in his New Zealand MegaMansion clutching a shotgun, Dotcom is now facing a slew of criminal charges and has been denied bail. According to the MPAA, Megaupload.com was “the largest and most active criminally operated website targeting creative content in the world,” and thus represents a high profile takedown that is clearly intended to send a message to other flagrant floggers of copyright content.
New Heights of Large-esse
Standing six and a half feet tall and with a media reported 285 lb. weight, Dotcom (formerly Schmitz) had taken living large to new levels of large-esse. Accumulating a fortune many observers placed on the high end of half a billion dollars through his shrewd but likely shady investments in a variety of internet staples such as Megaupload, Dotcom proceeded to live a lifestyle that would shame the most egomaniacal corporate vulture. He even went as far as producing a film glorifying a money-cremating trip to Monaco that was basically an excuse to show himself carousing with bikini models on a yacht and getting Kanye West, Alicia Keys and will.i.am to star in the music video of The MegaSong. Along the way he became persona non grata in a variety of countries, being convicted multiple times in Germany, deported from Thailand and even forbidden from buying the mansion he occupied in New Zealand.
Dotcom’s legitimate business as well as monkey business affairs (Monkey being the name of one of his many companies) included trafficking in stolen phone calling cards, computer fraud, data espionage, conspiracy, racketeering, money laundering and massive copyright violations as his various Mega sites blatantly hosted untold thousands of movies, albums and other protected works. MarkMonitor’s report on Online Piracy and Counterfeiting claimed that Dotcom owned two of the top three websites classified as digital pirates and accumulated more than 21 billion visits annually. At one point, Megaupload was the 13th most visited website in the world, chewing up well over 20 terabytes of internet bandwidth.
Banned by AdSense in 2007
Mega’s iniquitous nature was not exactly recent news. Back in May of 2007 Google cut off Mega’s AdSense revenue due to their massive violations of copyright content. This action led wags to wonder whether Google would cut off its own YouTube for similar violations, but it had to be acknowledged that Mega was being far more robustious about the availability of its copyrighted content, regularly featuring the most popular movies, games and music on a Top 100 files list.
Legitimate Files Also Seized
As is often the case in situations such as piracy sites, not all the content was illegal. Megaupload was widely used as a storage site by perfectly legitimate individuals and companies who have now seen all that cloud content vanish into a DOJ mist. Coming on the heels of the well-publicized Amazon EC2 failure and other cloud outages that led to total data loss such as the T-Mobile Sidekick disaster, the Mega seizure may cause many to question the wisdom of storing data in the cloud, especially if it is not locally backed up (which might seem to obviate the cloud storage in the first place).
Dotcom moved quickly to secure super-attorney Robert Bennett whose illustrious career includes representing Bill Clinton in the Paula Jones sexual harassment case, but he had to quickly withdraw from the case due to an unidentified conflict with at least one other client of his law firm, Hogan Lovells. The rest of his legal team certainly have their work cut out for them, defending the man the London Telegraph called “a PR man’s nightmare and a journalist’s dream.”