Monday, January 23, 2012

FileSonic stops file-sharing after Megaupload arrests

There are signs that some file-sharing sites are capitulating in the face of stronger action being taken by authorities to stop copyright infringement. On Monday FileSonic disabled all sharing of files allowing only personal account access.

In a statement, the company said, "All sharing functionality of FileSonic is now disabled. Our service can be used only to used to upload and retrieve files that you have uploaded personally."

FileSonic describes itself as the 'Unlimited Storage Company'. Much of the stored content was often shared with others and in many instances was in breach of copyright laws. It was not difficult to find illegally shared movies and albums on the site.

The decision by FileSonic comes after authorities closed down Megaupload which operated out of offices in New Zealand. Last week police in Auckland arrested Megaupload founder German national Kim Dotcom, also known as Kim Schmitz, along with three others in a raid requested by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation [BBC].

Megaupload claims it was diligent in responding to complaints about pirated material. However prosecutors have accused Megaupload of costing copyright holders more than $500 million in lost revenue. Megaload has been described as one of the largest file-sharing sites on the Internet. But it was by no means the only one.

As well as Megaupload there are many other such sites. These sites evidently feel threatened despite the fact that many are based outside the US. FileSonic has offices in Hong Kong and London, and, which also disabled sharing, is based in Hong Kong.

Others that have yet to stop sharing files are the sites RapidShare and MediaFire, but they will certainly be looking at the latest developments in the crackdown over illegal file-sharing. Other sites such as Files Tube which act more as a conduit to file-sharing sites will also be watching to see if they too are at risk.

FilesTube states it allows users to search for shared files from various file hosting sites like FileServe, FileSonic, Megaupload, 4shared, Rapidshare, Hotfile, Mediafire, Netload and many others. As a search engine it could be argued that they are no different from Google, Bing, Yahoo or Baidu, though they do provide links to specific content which might be more difficult to defend.

But if file-sharing sites decide they can no longer operate freely, sites such as Files Tube will also disappear since they will serve no purpose.

While the demise of these sites will impede the distribution of illegal music downloads they will also be missed by those who use them legitimately. Many of the sites are free to use and enable users to share very large files with others.

There are other sites which allow limited storage of files which might be shared with individuals or groups, but they too may be concerned that the clampdown may affect them [Reuters / ZDNet / CNET].

Authorities also assert that file-sharing sites such as Megaupload are used to distribute more than just music and films. According to the indictment cited against Megaupload claims that files found on the site also included child pornography and terrorism propaganda videos.

Megaupload and other sites make money primarily from membership fees which offer faster upload and download services, though some also display advertising.

The revenue generated has made the likes of Megaupload's Mr Dotcom very rich. New Zealand police froze assets amounting to NZ$11 million [US$8.86 million] and seized several expensive cars including a Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe and a 1959 pink Cadillac. A sawn-off  shot gun was also secured in the raid [NYT / Business WeekAFP].

tvnewswatch, London, UK

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