MegaUpload relaunched this past weekend as Mega, and much of the Internet has been busy since trying to sign up and test the new network out. PropertyOfZack is posting a new Perspective today written by Jesse Cannon dissecting the service, founder Kim Dotcom, and what it means for music, among many other items. Check out the Perspective on Mega below!
This weekend you’ve probably been discussing whether that weirdo Mormon football player really had an Internet girlfriend, or watching some badass girl go after Osama Bin Laden in the feel good movie of the winter. All the while, you have probably seen all your technologically adept friends buzzing about that real-life-version-of-the-Stay-Puft-Marshmellow-Man-looking-dude-Kim-Dotcom launching a new service called Mega, and subsequently freaking out about it like it may be the apocalypse. Just like the Ghostbusters did when they saw the sugar-filled monster roaming Manhattan. And they have good reason to freak out: Mega is going to bring about a huge change in our culture and possibly the way we all pay for the media we enjoy.
While we all have been able to share files with our friends through IM, YouSendIt, Dropbox or torrents for years, what makes Mega such a mega-game-changer is that it employs many unique features to make sure the government can’t intervene in their service like they did Mr. Dotcom’s previous endeavor, Megaupload/Megavideo, or the many torrent sites that have been recently shut down. Using Megaupload, you were able to upload files — be it books, music or movies — and send the link to your friend. But what was in your Megaupload folder was easily searchable using Google or specialized services like FilesTube. What Mega does differently is that it encrypts (jumbles a code so you can’t see whether you are uploading Zero Dark Thirty or your latest song about how cute your boyfriend looks in skinny jeans) on the uploader’s computer and then uploads it to a cloud where you are able to get a link and send it to all of your friends.
This means that if the government wants to take Mega to task for hosting illegal downloads of, say, Zero Dark Thirty, they can’t actually find all of those downloads since the contents of these downloads are hidden, making it impossible to know that ZDT is actually on the Mega servers. This, along with the fact that Mr. Dotcom gives non-paying users 50GB of storage, makes this site a big fucking deal for file sharing.
Mega’s encryption feature allows those who fear the RIAA or Kathryn Bigelow — ZDT director who went on a suing spree aimed at those who torrented her previous work, The Hurt Locker — coming after them for illegal downloads to share without fear of getting caught. This means that media will be more shared and we all will become less likely to purchase it. If your friends already have ZDT, they can pass it along to you with no repercussions or lawsuits. This, along with an easy to use interface, means that users will be sharing files more than ever. As we have seen as free culture has moved through the world in the past decade and a half, once consumers get used to not paying for media, it’s hard to get them paying again.
If Mega is successful, users will be sharing files more than ever and inevitably not giving money to the filmmakers, musicians and authors who create the media users enjoy. How much “less” is remains to be seen, but it undoubtedly will be less. The subsequent defunding will take away the ability for many of these creators to fund future endeavors, and if free media does become widespread enough, the ability to make a movie with bold productions may become more rare. After all, a movie like The Hurt Locker takes millions of dollars to make: there is no way around that.
We have all seen rants of musicians complaining about fans not paying for their records, but we have all seen many musicians reap the rewards of free music building them a fan base (in fact, I just wrote a book all about that). But filmmakers and authors have a different set of problems. An author doesn’t tour, license his or her writing to commercials or sell cute T-shirts that make your tats look cool. A filmmaker would need to rely on only those profits made from a theatrical release, which are not sustainable and will mean budgets and productions will end up being cut. This means that the quality of films and books is sure to degrade if they are illegally shared and the creators are defunded. It will leave them with little means to make high quality work.
The argument about this sharing is a long and complicated one when dealing with music, which was the first of the arts to get vastly defunded. Musicians turned to other income streams, but this may not be possible in every medium. Streaming services like Netflix and Spotify have made it so it isn’t as convenient to share media through services like Mega, since there is inherent upload and download times in order to get a file with the service. Whereas these streaming services offer users a more immediate and convenient interface to enjoy the media the way they want for a price that gives back to the creators, even if these profits are minimal. If films are made more readily available on these services, Mega could be rendered relatively useless, but that takes a lot of change in the world of film and for books would require an already defunded industry to figure out a new service and payment model.