Famous for his MegaUpload mega legal troubles, Kim Dotcom launched a new filesharing site yesterday, called simply “Mega.” It launched on January 20, 2013, exactly one year after the New Zealand police stormed his New Zealand home. The new service offers a free 50 GB of encrypted storage, so that files are encrypted and contents unknown, including to Mega itself. The new venture has gained instant and widespread attention simply because it has risen out of the legal ashes of the old one. And it looks like the legal lesson has been learned.
Here is what the filesharing caselaw has taught us: Filesharing in itself is fine. There are many good and legal uses for it. But building a platform designed to assist infringement is not a good business model. The LimeWire case of Arista Records LLC v. Lime Group LLC is a good example.
It is an over-simplification, but not by too much, to say that remaining completely agnostic, and ideally completely ignorant, about the nature and content of your users’ files is the safest place to be as the owner of a filesharing platform. Better to provide an open field for play than to set out a bunch of playground equipment. Kim Dotcom’s new Mega service takes that lesson to heart, encrypting user files so that even its own people can’t get into them.
Which brings us to Tupac and 50 Cent. In the crowded rap game, like in the crowded space of cloud-based IT services, some street cred is a big differentiator. It worked for Tupac and 50 Cent, with their back stories giving them early credibility with their audiences. (This was also the plot of the movie Hustle & Flow, if you remember that one.) And the MegaUpload legal debacle is working for Kim Dotcom’s new service.
In spite of the quantity of filesharing services available, Mr. Dotcom’s new venture had 250,000 users within just a few hours, and hit 1 million within 24 hours. I can’t help but think that the reason for this initial big splash is the notoriety that came out of his MegaUpload service and the legal trouble he got into for it.
The privacy-enabling encryption features, and the fee 50GB are definitely a part of the draw. No doubt about that. But 1 million users in 24 hours? That’s gangsta.