Ryan Bivins joins us again today to take a look at one of the niche communities negatively impacted by the demise of "cyberlocker" site Megaupload: Boxing fans across the globe.
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On Jan. 19th, 2012, all sites owned by Megaupload Limited, most notably megaupload.com and megavideo.com, were shut down by the FBI. Megaupload provided the fastest one click download links on the internet while megavideo provided streams of video files, many of which were automatically converted from megaupload files. The websites were shut down because the FBI believes Megaupload differed from other online file storage and intentionally harbored copyright infringing material. Here are some of the key outlined points to support the FBI's case (the ones that don't directly pertain to the unverifiable personal actions of those arrested and indicted):
- Most users didn't pay for their storage, thus advertising was used as a primary revenue source. The advertisements primarily appeared when trying to download, thus the business model was not based on storage but maximizing downloads. Files with idle download activity were usually aggressively removed.
- Removal of copyright infringing material was not given the same priority of removing child pornography. (Like the two are clearly as important, right?)
- Infringing users did not have their accounts terminated and no automatic or any other system was in place to detect copyright infringement (such as Youtube's ability to detect copyrighted audio/visual content before anyone visits the link).
- Users were once (notice the past tense, the system ended around a year before the seizure) given a financial incentive to generate mass downloads of their files.
- Megaupload pretended to comply with the DMCA (The United States Digital Millennium Copyright Act which protects sites that promptly remove infringing content), but only removed reported links to copyrighted files, not the actual files themselves. Therefore alternative links to the same files which were unreported stayed alive. Also, users could usually re-upload the previously removed copyrighted files instantaneously since they were already on Megaupload servers.
Given that many other file storage sites were guilty of the same "crimes", and given the general trend of anti-piracy measurements in the US such as SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (PROTECT IP Act), other prominent file sharing sites closed down or changed access privileges in the wake of the fall of Megaupload. Filesonic, one of the top 10 file hosting services, now has the following message displayed on its website: "All sharing functionality on FileSonic is now disabled. Our service can only be used to upload and retrieve files that you have uploaded personally." X7.to, another file storage website, has voluntarily shut down entirely. Even non-file storage websites shut down like the torrent site BTJunkie and the video streaming site QuickSilverScreen.
Storage sites FileServe.com, FileJungle.com, and Uploadstation.com have since made significant changes to their sharing procedures (addressing the FBI points condemning Megaupload listed earlier). Cooperation with affiliate programs has also ceased (often used to upload to their sites and others). Multiupload.com, which used to put files on many of the previously mentioned sites and then some, doesn't appear to have officially shut down but no longer loads (at least by the time this article was written). United States residents can no longer use Uploaded.to or Turbobit.net. They now both provide the message, "Our service is currently unavailable in your country. We are sorry about that." By blocking all US IP addresses from accessing their website, it allows them to operate as usual while circumventing FBI investigation. If they find profits to be satiable without the United States, maybe other sites will follow suit. For those of us in the USA like myself, let's hope not.
Despite all the fallout, some companies remain unfazed, or at least pretend to be. Derek Labian, CEO of MediaFire, stated, "Megaupload was making a ridiculous amount of money with a ridiculously bad service," along with "We don't have a business built on copyright infringement," and "If people are pirating on our service, we don't want those people to use it. " Then again, with an upload/download limit of 200 MB for free users, it's not like many people supplying/receiving videos longer than 20 minutes would be too interested in using it anyways. And people supplying copyrighted videos generally share ones longer than 20 min. Of course one could always split the video up into smaller files and have whoever downloads them merge them back together.
But that's a pain in the ass, something only usually done for very large files over 1 GB, the standard size limit for free users on most major storage sites. One such storage site with the 1 GB limit is Rapidshare. Daniel Raimer, a spokesperson for RapidShare, told ars technica in a phone interview, "We're not concerned or scared about the raid (on Megaupload). " Since then Rapidshare has reduced the transfer rate on free downloads to around 35 kb/s. Rapidshare is only rapid now for premium (paying) users.
End of the Golden Age
While Megaupload was taken down for piracy, it comes down to two sources of pirated material that did it in, movies and music. If boxing was the only source of pirated material on megaupload, rest assured it would still be alive today. The FBI does not give a shit about boxing. Even the people that own copyrights to boxing hardly cared when they were infringed. Sad to say it, but boxing just isn't that popular and needs all the exposure it can get, legal or not. Unfortunately for boxing fans, that exposure was primarily invested into Megaupload. Megaupload's amount of full fights even put YouTube to shame. Movies and music are freely available to pirate all over the internet with or without Megaupload. Boxing is not. And no website hosted Megaupload boxing links better than sweetboxing. Unfortunately the website has since closed and been sold to unrelated parties desperate to pick up extra web traffic. But let me tell you about how good things used to be...
Before sweetboxing closed doors, with merely a valid email address anyone could create a free account and navigate through well over twenty thousand well organized fights and documentaries. With Megaupload they could download the fights within a few minutes and with Megavideo they could stream them instantly. And new fights were added daily, loads of which came on weekends as new fights aired. Users didn't have to wait very long for the new fights either. Often within a few hours after verdicts were announced, the fights were readily available to download. And this was especially true for the major fights most people came to see.
Didn't matter if the fights cost those who recorded, encoded, and uploaded them up to $60, they would still be quickly available to the public for free. Within a single fight weekend over 50 new fights were sometimes available to the masses even before Monday. And no matter how late you were to finally download a fight, weeks, months, even a year later, it would still be available. That however is not entirely a product of free megaupload accounts, but of the staff's purchased premium accounts. If regular users of the site wanted to contribute their own links, members of the staff would import them to their own premium accounts to insure they never died. It was a beautiful system. Everyone loved it. And the organization only made it even more amazing.
The crowning signatures of the website were the eloquently constructed career threads, where users could switch between one fighter and the archive of all fighters with a single click. Five fights / documentaries on a fighter were required to construct a career thread, and over 1500 career threads were made. On average each career thread contained roughly 12 unique links (one link per fight/documentary).
If you do the math, that's over 18,000 fights / documentaries there alone. Just updating all the career threads on a daily basis could be a full time job. And more were constantly made. Career threads existed of long since deceased fighters going as far back as Jack Johnson. There were even career threads of prospects who had only participated in a handful of pro fights. And as stated previously, all of this was done for anyone with a computer and internet access, free of charge.
While the career threads were the most amazing asset to the site, they were not the only thing amazing. The next best addition to the site was probably its world title fight collection. Every division was covered over the entire span of the division's history (although obviously not every title fight was available to download, in most cases because footage of the bout doesn't exist). Other excellent threads included an archive of documentaries assembled much like the career threads, a thread devoted to meetings between undefeated fighters, one devoted to professional debuts, one devoted to full broadcasts, the list goes on and on. It was paradise, and now it's all gone. So thank you FBI. You set out to eliminate pirated movies and music, got nowhere, and in the process wiped out the largest boxing video collection known to mankind. Thanks a lot. Was the Megaupload song really that infuriating?
Oh yea, Floyd "Money" Mayweather is in that video too (47 second mark). And I have to say, the song is pretty good. Maybe that's why it has well over 13 million views, well that and people really miss Megaupload.