01.20.2012 in Featured, Politics by Robert Romano 15

The Cyber Wars Have Begun

MegaUploadBy Robert Romano — In an unexpected move, on Jan. 19, the U.S. Department of Justice, along with New Zealand law enforcement officials, have taken down Hong Kong-based Megaupload.com, a popular file sharing site that had been promoted by pop culture icons Alicia Keys, Kim Kardashian, and Puff Daddy.

In response, the Anonymous hackers group has waged denial of service attacks on the Department of Justice, the U.S. Copyright Office, the White House, the FBI, MPAA, RIAA, BMI, and Universal Music.

Megaupload’s founders have been arrested, and charged with a criminal conspiracy to violate federal copyright laws, even though the company was based overseas.

More than anything, the move shows that new laws, such as SOPA and PIPA, to take out foreign infringing sites are completely unnecessary.

Which is what Americans for Limited Government Bill Wilson has been saying all along.  In a statement before the indictments were announced, he said, “Existing law already provides for the removal of copyrighted material from the Internet domestically, and dealing with foreign infringement requires diplomacy with relevant nations overseas, not a regime of censorship here at home.”

Surely enough, with the cooperation of New Zealand, authorities had little trouble rounding up members of the company and handing down a multi-count indictment.

The company had been claiming to be a “file storage” company, but is accused of facilitating copyright infringement by refusing to process Digital Millennium Copyright Act takedown requests, and by falsely telling copyright owners materials had been removed when members of the company were replacing the url’s of pirated material.

Also, according to the indictment, it allegedly “made payments to uploaders who were known to have uploaded infringing copies of copyrighted works.” It also alleges that members of the company were uploading infringing works themselves.

If true, Megaupload.com would certainly have qualified as a foreign infringing site as defined by SOPA and PIPA.

Importantly, it means no change in existing laws is necessary at all to get at some of the largest infringing sites in the world.

That is why, in light of the charges, members of Congress should reconsider their support of these pieces of legislation.

The timing of the indictment does appear to be a warning shot to U.S.-based user networks.  The bills under consideration in the House and Senate explicitly state that they would target foreign websites that would otherwise be eligible for seizure under existing domestic federal forfeiture laws.

It is already using those laws to seize domestic websites it alleges are engaged in piracy, and in some cases is doing so based on apparent bogus complaints, as in the case of www.dajaz1.com.

Considering the type of network Megaupload was — a user network that allows folks to upload pretty much anything they want — that means other networks that allow uploading need to be careful and diligent to process legitimate takedown complaints from copyright holders, and certainly not to share profits with known infringing users.

That said, this is a clear example why existing laws are sufficient for domestic issues, and international issues should be dealt with via diplomacy.

However, a word of warning.

The draconian tools in SOPA and PIPA could be easily leveraged against Wikipedia, Twitter, Google and Facebook.  It is a striking coincidence that one of the largest copyright crackdowns in history came one day after many popular sites across the Internet demonstrated the need for careful deliberation on any new laws in this area.

These indictments must not be allowed to be used as a means of squelching dissent, and intimidating opposition to the legislation.  It is our hope that the timing of this execution of law was not a message to the broader community, but it certainly could be construed that way.  A frightening thought indeed.

Robert Romano is the Senior Editor of Americans for Limited Government.

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  • Anonymous

    Strange….The Chinese have been violating our copyright laws ever since time began, and they have done nothing to stop the Chinese counterfeiting and illegal copying, but gleefully do business with them. Hmmm…..   Very strange indeed…..  Did this website not pay their protection money and donate to the right political campaign? I guess not…..  

  • Marttini

    US AUTHORITIES DON’T HAVE THE AUTHJORITY TO ARREST NO ONE IN FOREIGN COUNTRIESD FOR COPYRTIGHT LAW VIOLATION. VIOLATION OF FOREIGN COUNTRIES SOVRTEIGNTY.
    MEGAUPLOAD FOUNDERS & MEGAUPLOAD.COM WILL BE FREE TO DO BUSINESS AS USUAL FOR THEIR CLIENTS TO UPLOAD PIRATED MATERIAL

  • Marttini

    US AUTHORITIES DON’T HAVE THE AUTHORITY TO ARREST NO ONE IN FOREIGN COUNTRIES FOR COPYRIGHT LAW VIOLATION. VIOLATION OF FOREIGN COUNTRIES SOVRTEIGNTY. THE US AUTHORITIES VIOLATED COUNTRY SOVREIGNTY THAT DON’T CARE ABOUT COPYRIGHT LAWS IN FOREIGN COUNTRIES
    THE US AUTHORITIES DON’T HAVE THE RIGHT TO ENFORCE OR ARREST ANYONE IN FOREIGN COUNTRIES FOR COPYRIGHT LAW VIOLATION. THE LAW DOES NOT APPLY TO FOREIGN SOVREIGNTY COUNTRY
    MEGAUPLOAD FOUNDERS & MEGAUPLOAD.COM WILL BE FREE TO DO BUSINESS AS USUAL FOR THEIR CLIENTS TO UPLOAD PIRATED MATERIAL
    PROTEST AGAINST US FOR VIOLATION OF COUNTRY SOVREIGNTY FOR ARRESTING FOUNDERS OF MEGAUPLOAD.COM IN A FOREIGN THAT DOES NOT HAVE THE AUTHORITY IN A FOREIGN COUNTRY.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_DIF4BSDD3E5TJNYUBTKH3OZUIY ArbutusJoe

    Preventing the copying of ideas in the age of digital media is revealing the shoddy intellectual foundation on which IP stands.We need to rethink our devotion to copyrights, patents and the rest of IP. Are we really better off by restricting who can use what idea? What we want is innovation, and IP simply sets up monopoly privileges that makes for technological and cultural stagnation.

  • http://www.greencloaks.com/ Elgathel

    I am no apologist for SOPA or PIPA. However, without copyright protections, there is absolutely no incentive to create anything new, whether it be a novel (such as I write), a film, or a computer. Why go to the trouble of creating, if someone can rip off your creation, duplicate it and render all of your hard work meaningless and profitless? It takes me several years to write and publish a novel, and I’m not about to see that effort wasted.

  • Anonymous

    Our Kansas congressmen will not support passage of these bills.  We’re proud of them.

  • 313th

    Your website lies!  This is typical rightwing drivel.

  • kmw

    Of course the real problem here is the violation of our Constitution’s authorization to protect copyright and patents ‘for a time’.  Intellectual Property does not really exist, it is an invention of society that must be enforced by government.  The creation of IP monopolies is completely contrary to the wisdom of the founders in their inclusion of IP in the Constitution.

  • HumanAction

    This argument is simply not true.  The profits shift and change, but remain.   Producers benefit for being the first to market, and also benefit for providing something in a better way or to a different market.  The markets are endless, and todays standard view of IP needs serious reexamination. 

  • David Yetter

    Then explain The Illiad, Beowulf, the hymns of St. Romanos the Melodist, The Canterbury Tales, Dante’s Divine Comedy, the entire corpus of John Dowland’s songs, the entire corpus of J.S. Bach’s musical works, the icons of St. Andrew Rublev, Titian’s paintings, Albrecht Durer’s prints, all of which were written, composed, or produced without the incentive of copyright. 

  • bjhnsn

    Copyrights, like Patents, provide protection for one’s creation, inventions, whatever – but for a certain time. Seven (7) years is usual for many. There may be longer periods for others types. Elgathel is right in that the time, expense and great effort one puts into a ‘creation’ should be protected for a time. I don’t think it should be protected forever. There are forgeries, and all should know that a forgery offered for profit is always illegal. But many ideas have been taken (stolen) from individuals by companies and they made a big profit on them. And of utmost concern is the stealing of top most information that weakens the security of other nations.

  • bjhnsn

    Right, his prints WERE copied. And today if you copy them, for personal use, it is okay. Don’t try to sell a COPY for profit or you will not like the results.

  • bjhnsn

    Did you not read, “…with the COOPERATION of New Zealand…”?  No violation of its sovereignty. This is dealt with through DIPLOMACY with foreign countries.

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