Monday, January 23, 2012

The Eight Most Eyebrow-Raising Elements of the Megaupload Shutdown

Posted By on Mon, Jan 23, 2012 at 7:08 AM

Update, 8/9/12: Video of the raid on former Megaupload CEO Kim Dotcom's enormous New Zealand home in January has just emerged -- you can watch it above. The report, from 3 News in New Zealand, includes testimony from Dotcom -- who is accused of the largest copyright infringement in U.S. history, police footage from helicopters, interviews with security personell and more. It's a fairly impressive display of force given the circumstances. The police seem to have been expecting a bit more excitement than they got. Dotcom did not resist arrest, which was smart on his part given the small army of New Zealand police, special forces and even the FBI on hand. He is currently trying to prove in court that the search and seizure of his home was unreasonable under the New Zealand Bill of Rights.

Original post follows

SOPA and PIPA have been the talk of the internet for weeks, if not months now. Several major websites blacked out their content in opposition to the controversial bills this past Wednesday. On Thursday, a Federal raid took down the file-sharing giant Megaupload.com. In retaliation, the Guy-Fawkes-mask-wearing online "hactivist" collective known as "Anonymous" launched website-disabling attacks on the FBI, Department of Justice, Universal Music Group, RIAA and Motion Picture Association of America. Despite the overall weirdness of these facts in and of themselves, scratching past the surface a bit reveals even further oddities within this story. Without further ado, we bring you the top eight most eyebrow-raising elements of the Megaupload shutdown.

8. Impeccable Timing

click to enlarge 280536_sopa.jpg

On Wednesday, January 18, many major internet sites including Google and Wikipedia implemented blackouts of their content in opposition to the controversial SOPA and PIPA bills that have been moving through Congress. Mere hours after the blackouts were over, the Fed's mega-raid on Megaupload took place. Officials of the U.S. Government have said it is a coincidence, but still to the outside observer it looks very neatly timed.

7. Kim "DotCom"

Born Kim Schmitz, the apparently eccentric German founder of Megaupload changed his name ten years ago to Kim "Dotcom". A visit to the web address "www.kim.com" yielded a content-less white page, which in this writer's opinion is a wasted opportunity for him to post up more totally sweet pictures of himself with his guns and cars. (Keep reading, see below.)

6. Swizz Beatz

click to enlarge Decidedly NOT a multinational file-sharing cyber pirate.
  • Decidedly NOT a multinational file-sharing cyber pirate.

This article seems to mention it as almost an afterthought, but apparently hip-hop producer / master beat-crafter Swizz Beatz has his name on some of Megaupload's records as being CEO of the rogue file-sharing website. "The company itself is listed as being based out of Hong Kong and names musician Swizz Beatz, husband to Grammy winner Alicia Keys, as its CEO." While the alignment of a major music personality with a website notorious for copyright infringement is eyebrow-raising enough, more bizarre is the fact that more recent sources indicate that Mr. Beatz was not in fact CEO at all, but was working with them and did help secure top-name artists to appear in a very strange promotional video for the site.

5. The Aforementioned Strange Promotional Video

In mid-December, Megaupload commissioned a song for an interesting marketing campaign - a peculiar 5 minute long video in which major recording artists P Diddy, Will.i.am, Alicia Keys, Kanye West, Snoop Dogg, Chris Brown, The Game, Mary J Blige and others all expressed their support for the site, seemingly in direct contradiction to it's reputation as a hub for copyright infringement.. Universal Music Group, with whom many of the afforementioned artists have contracts, demanded that Youtube remove the video on the grounds of copyright infringement - even though everything in the video was the intellectual property of Megaupload. Youtube complied, Dotcom filed a complaint, and the video was eventually restored. In an ironic move that assuredly angered the execs at UMG, Megaupload accused UMG of unscrupulous business tactics and referred to the record label as a "rogue" company, fueling the feud between the companies. Still, the most eyebrow-raising piece of information about this video if the fact that, according to what we see at the 1:48 mark, apparently Dotcom himself is the one (literally) singing the praises of his website in the song, despite the high-profile talent he rounded up.

4. Kim Tim Jim

According to this article, even before the "Dotcom" surname alteration, Kim apparently went by the also legally-changed name of "Kim Tim Jim Vestor". Uh....What? 3. Sweet Personalized Plates, Dude

click to enlarge Probably not going to help the case much....
  • Probably not going to help the case much....

Dotcom's assets were also seized in the raid, including a slew of high-end luxury cars with some tellingly outrageous license plates. Rolls Royces, several Mercedes Benzs, and many more carry license plates that read such things as "MAFIA", "EVIL", "GOD", "HACKER", "STONED" and most hilarious considering recent events, "GUILTY". In retrospect, some of those rather telling personalizations may not have been the wisest to label oneself.

2. Talks with UMG Used in Indictment

The newest feature upon which Megaupload was preparing to embark was an idea known as "Megabox", a musical venture which according to Dotcom was intended to be an artist-friendly competitor to the traditional record label system. As discussed above, record company super-giant Universal Music Group and Megaupload have a sordid history together, however, they were apparently in talks to find a way for Megabox to license UMG's music for use on the site. Interestingly, details of these talks can be found with the Department of Justice's indictment of Megaupload, leaving one to wonder just how the DoJ received copies of this correspondence. From a conspiracy theorist standpoint, one could wonder whether UMG may have made a Machiavellian tactical move to bury a potential competitor.

1. SOPA and PIPA Dead, Megaupload Back Online

On Friday, one day after Anonymous attacked virtually the entire internet, Senator Harry Reid and Representative Lamar Smith -- sponsors of SOPA and PIPA, respectively -- have both announced that they will be shelving the controversial bills. According to Reid, "In light of recent events, I have decided to postpone Tuesday's vote on the PROTECT IP Act." Considering the whirlwind of recent events over the last week concerning the issue, its hard to ascertain the exact events to which he is referring, but it is interesting to note that with Anonymous's attacks Thursday came the threat of more if SOPA and PIPA weren't dropped. Even Chris Dodd, head of the MPAA and formerly adamant supporter of the proposed laws (and recent victim of Anonymous's brand of cyber-mischief), seems to have admitted defeat. While elements of each bill may appear in different forms in future legislation, the bills as they stand now are likely dead for good. As for Megaupload? The file-sharing site is already back online on several mirror sites.

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