The arrest of the founder of cloud-based file sharing service Megaupload played out like a scene from Modern Warfare or Rainbow Six, with Kim Dotcom reportedly barricading himself in a safe room while authorities battled to arrest him in his multimillion dollar New Zealand home.
However, this was not a game, in fact it is the event that this week appears to have cast a dark lining over cloud-based sharing in general and over these ‘cyber locker’ sites in particular.
In the wake of the arrest, and extradition to the US to face charges of money laundering, similar and legitimate cloud-based services are reassessing their business models and modifying how accessible they are.
The storm breaks
Another cloud-based sharing service, Filesonic
, has shut down file sharing completely, posting a notice on its site stating that “all file sharing on its site is now disabled, our service can only be used to upload and retrieve files that you have uploaded personally."
They are not the only ones. According to IndustryGamers,
Fileserve has similarly disabled third-party downloads, while Uploaded.to instead opted to ban all IP addresses based stateside.
One site, UploadBox
has shut down completely, stating on its site that the “file hosting service is no longer available. All files will be deleted on January 30th. Feel free to download the files you store with UploadBox until this date”.
However, while Megaupload has been implicated in facilitating piracy, file sharing services certainly have their uses, particularly as adoption of the cloud grows. Sites like Rapidshare and Mediafire for example, are intended to be used to share files that are too large to send via email.
For example, if you wanted to share a large multi-layered image files or a Powerpoint presentation with work colleagues, but the resulting file was in the region of 100 MB or larger, you could upload it to a file sharing service, share the link with the office and enable them to download it at their leisure.
In a recent interview with Ars Technica
, Rapidshare’s spokesperson, Daniel Raimer, emphasised that file hosting was a legitimate business, pointing out that Microsoft’s SkyDrive and other cloud data storage services were from a technical standpoint very similar.
He further elaborated that unlike Megaupload, the company did not offer a reward system for files that were frequently downloaded, in which uploaders were awarded with monetary rewards.
The crackdown came after the Stop Online Piracy Act
and Protect IP Act were effectively defeated, after wide spread protests against them from technology companies, internet users and human rights groups asserted that should the bills pass, they would damage the free nature of the internet.
And while many would rejoice at the fact that an allegedly criminal empire has been broken, hacking group Anonymous responded
to the Megaupload blitz by targeting the websites of the FBI, US Department of Justice, the Motion Picture Association, and the Recording Industry Association.
In many ways, we cannot help but suspect that the battle for the internet has just begun. What the internet will look like after lawmakers, lawbreakers, corporate interests and general users alike have had their say is anyone’s guess.