|Kim Dotcom Mega launch presser/photo: AP|
Few will question the public’s fascination with peer-to-peer file-sharing. Services with cool-sounding names like Napster, Kazaa, Limewire, Grokster, Morpheus, Gnutella, BitTorrent and MegaUpload flourished among the digtital cognoscenti in the days when broadband Internet penetration had just started to gain real traction here and abroad.
Who could resist the idea of building at no cost a massive collection of music and movie files through the “benevolence” of others with like-minded, if not ill-conceived aspirations? In succession, these file-sharing services dominated the pre-Twitter media conversation, fueled to some degree by the RIAA and MPAA’s maneuverings to shutter them with copyright infringement lawsuits.
At the time, I was doing some PR work for an organization called MediaDefender whose services were retained by the big content companies to make it difficult for anyone to download the work of their copyrighted music artists and TV/film producers. MediaDefender’s sophisticated methods of releasing into the file-sharing services distorted decoy files didn’t sit well with the all-content-should-be-free crowd. In a pre-Anonymous moment, they hacked MediaDefender’s email servers exposing voluminous amount of proprietary information. Oh well.
Over the last couple of years, we kinda forgot about the drama that surrounded peer-to-peer file-sharing. Some of this is due to the success those trade associations achieved in the courts, and the scary publicity that resulted. Another reason may be the move to the cloud and the emergence of legal music-streaming/sharing services like Spotify, Pandora and Songza that granted access to one’s fave tunes or playlists without the need to (illegally) download them to one’s hard drive.
The file-sharing community, however, continued to thrive, albeit underground. One of the more notorious offenders, a big-boned German named Kim Dotcom, became a cult hero when the U.S. government convinced the Kiwis to shutter his file-sharing platform MegaUpload last August with a brazen raid of his Auckland compound.
On Friday, Dotcom re-emerged to tout his next (cloud-based) venture via a prominent exclusive with video that appeared in the influential Guardian news organization. Its headline:
“Kim Dotcom prepares to unveil new Mega site: Internet entrepreneur to launch successor to Megaupload at Auckland mansion raided last year”
“In an interview with the Guardian days before the launch of the stepchild of Megaupload, to be called Mega and marked with a defiantly lavish launch at the same Auckland mansion that was dramatically raided on 20 January last year, Dotcom said the targeting of his site was motivated by a “political agenda” in the White House, brought on by pressure from Hollywood bosses to crack down on internet piracy.”
What happened next is a publicist’s dream. That piece spawned worldwide attention to Mr. Dotcom’s new venture, simply called Mega. (I even heard it on New York’s all-news radio station 1010 WINS. Dotcom piled on his Guardian exclusive with a Mega “spectacle” of a press conference from his New Zealand mansion (see photo at top):
As for the MPAA and RIAA, CNET writes:
“The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) have somehow managed to get the US government to take over the huge financial burden of policing copyright, instead of them having to finance it out of their profits. They have, along the way, criminalised American citizens. Whether this approach will succeed remains to be seen, but it will probably help drive file-sharing abroad. Mega isn’t registered under a US domain name, because this is now too big a risk.”
Mr. Dotcom likened his personal plight agaionst an “over-zealous” government to that of now-deceased Internet activist Aaron Swartz (alongside whom this PR person toiled on behalf of launch Lawrence Lessig’s Change Congress now Root Strikers) — and Wikileaks’ Julian Assange, now holed up in Ecuador. Politics aside, Mr. Dotcom’s PR strategy to serve up an exclusive story to The Guardian, followed by an over-the-top presser, apparently worked. The coverage thus far is boffo, even though the site itself is inaccessible presumably due to over-demand. Ahhh…the allure of file sharing (and anarchy?).