The American government today took down the file sharing site Megaupload, a site where people can upload and download files for free or with paid subscriptions for better speeds and features. Companies, celebrities, people sharing perfectly legal files, and people who share pirated media there including anime and scanlations of manga used the American hosted site. The Federal government is charging the executives of the site with more than $500 million US dollars of lost revenue of copyrighted content and have been arrested along with several other employees who reside outside the US. Official Department of Justice response can be found on justice.gov which is or was down when writing this along with many other sites by denial of service attacks from Anonymous.
Removal of Megaupload has interesting timing since attention of Internet censorship laws SOPA and PIPA have grown after sites like Wikipedia and thousands others blacked out their sites in protest. It would be pretty easy to suggest that Megaupload isn’t a good example of sites that shouldn’t be protected since majority of its use surely was involving copyright infringement, but perhaps it will create an example of what’s to come. There was no due process for the site’s removal as actions were taken with no way for the company or people behind Megaupload to dispute their case. It could have been a blog, news site, or a small hole in the wall. Perhaps having one larger site taken down before any sort of voting in a governing body will create enough stir to stop SOPA, PIPA, or future laws while showing how this can affect people outside of the US.
With one of the largest file sharing sites gone there’s still the issue of the lack of new licenses for manga, innovative ways of distributing product, and other ways of pirating taking its place. There are currently a lot of sites out there with broken embedded videos and links to manga chapters with many of those links to countless little known anime and manga that were never translated or licensed by Western or even Japanese publishers.
Publishers and distributors of media need to adapt and provide better service to combat piracy as opposed to lashing out against their own consumer base. I cannot argue against the removing of Megaupload, but I know for myself that SOPA, PIPA, and Megaupload’s removal won’t get me to buy more than I do. It instead makes me question the morality and ethics of buying. The next time I tell someone of something wonderful to watch or read, I may just stay silent on how to buy it or if there’s a sale and reluctantly concede to arguments about buying versus pirating when in discussion.
This censorship problem can be seen much larger than what it may appear. It’s the merging of government with corporations and Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision by Supreme Court of the United States making way for more laws like SOPA and PIPA to come.