SOPA and PIPA Shelved, But MegaUpload Closure Sign of Things to Come

The U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) cracked down on cloud file storage site MegaUpload a day before the Stop Online Piracy (SOPA) and Protect IP (PIPA) acts were shelved in the US Senate and Congress. The DoJ used the PRO-IP (Prioritizing Resources and Organization for Intellectual Property Act of 2008) law to shut down Megaupload with an inter-agency task force working in Canada, Hong Kong, New Zealand and the Netherlands. employees Bram van der Kolk, also known as Bramos, left, Finn Batato,second from left, Mathias Ortmann and founder, former CEO and current chief innovation officer of Kim Dotcom (also known as Kim Schmitz and Kim Tim Jim Vestor), right, appear in North Shore District Court in Auckland, New Zealand, Friday, Jan. 20, 2012. The four appeared in court in relation to arrests made to, which is linked to a U.S. investigation into international copyright infringement and money laundering. (AP)

Unofficial Anonymous group spokesperson Barrett Brown highlighted the US government’s reach:

Even without SOPA having been passed yet, the federal government always had tremendous power to do some of the things that they want to do. So if this is what can occur without SOPA being passed, imagine what can occur after SOPA is passed.

The federal indictment issued by the DoJ charged the founders of MegaUpload with racketeering, money laundering and copyright infringement. Which begs the question: if the US government already has this much power to reach across continents to arrest people and shut down websites for copyright infringement, why do they need to pass SOPA and PIPA in the first place? This leads to another question: why are a bunch of old men — 50- to 70-year-olds who might not even know what Internet protocols are about, attempting to establish additional rules for policing the Internet?

The shelving of these two bills does not mean the end of the debacle. The popular Internet blackouts last week threw a monkey wrench into the machine, but SOPA and PIPA are not dead yet. Trust the wily old coots (and the conglomerates who support the proposals) to bring it up again later this year.

The backlash to the MegaUpload shutdown washes over the Internet. Last week, the hacker activist collective known as Anonymous bombarded the websites of the DoJ, FBI, Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and Recording Industry Association of American (RIAA), with denial of service requests. This effectively overloaded the sites until they were no longer accessible for a period of time. FileSonic disabled their file sharing capabilities this week, while blocked access to US users.

However, some file sharing sites such as MediaFire and RapidShare were not as concerned about the news nor about MegaUpload. MediaFire CEO Derek Labian even went as far as criticising MegaUpload:

Megaupload was making a ridiculous amount of money with a ridiculously bad service… We don’t have a business built on copyright infringement.

Julian Sanchez, a research fellow at the Cato Institute, underscores the worrying US DoJ authority over US registered domains, enabling the DoJ to shutter “infringing sites” even before a trial and handing of a sentence.

That’s a little disturbing, because even if it sounds like these people are guilty, it is up to the trial to determine that beyond a reasonable doubt. And you would think… after that conviction… you would go to the lengths of taking down the entire site.

As such, the question over the necessity for SOPA and PIPA remains. If the U.S. government can shut down websites based on existing laws, and extradite alleged copyright infringers back to U.S. soil for trial, to boot, then why bother at all?