Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Mega Strange

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  • Russell Brown,

    That customer registered with a throwaway email address.

    Ban throwaway addresses for registrants? Problem is, one man's throwaway address is another, well, email address. One appeal of the Mega service, which our house used to transfer some raw video files, is how seamless it is to start using the service -- you can be drag-and-drop uploading before you've even finished setting up your account. I guess the government could require a more onerous registration process -- proof of identity, etc -- but that would leave every other similar service on the internet under no such constraint

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22029 posts Report Reply

  • peter mclennan,

    re Megabox, it's still coming, apparently - Dotcom announced it was now called Baboom, back in early sept, see... http://musically.com/2013/09/09/kim-dotcoms-megabox-music-service-is-dead-long-live-baboom/

    AK Central • Since Nov 2006 • 158 posts Report Reply

  • Cam Slater,

    Adolescent feuding...funny how it is mine, not Fishers.

    I'll repeat again Russell for your benefit since you seem slow on the uptake. I don not upload the book to Mega.

    And again for your benefit and for all the enablers of Dotcom...I will not be revealing my source or details of how I came by the story.

    Funny how you demand this of me but never of anyone else. Double standards much?

    New Zealand • Since Sep 2013 • 6 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Cam Slater,

    Funny how you demand this of me but never of anyone else. Double standards much?

    I'm demanding nothing. I am observing that the story doesn't appear to be as it originally seemed.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22029 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to peter mclennan,

    re Megabox, it’s still coming, apparently – Dotcom announced it was now called Baboom, back in early sept, see…

    Ah, thanks. Hopefully they've ditched the ad-substitution idea. It's a complete non-starter.

    From the linked story it appears that Baboom users will only be able to upload works in which they own the rights.

    It's possible Baboom could apply a Content ID system like that on YouTube -- which allows rights owners to claim revenue and even chart status on works uploaded without permission -- but that would require a degree of cooperation from the industry that seems a long way off.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22029 posts Report Reply

  • Dylan Reeve,

    jim.bob1974@gmail.com -- Throwaway or real? Who can say.

    It's impossible for content providers to beat this technically. It's been happening as long as companies have allowed users to store files. There were BBSes I regularly accessed in the early 90s where users could share files they'd uploaded with others - they were used for piracy (and non-piracy) but this is not new.

    Even before the web users on the early internet were sharing files they shouldn't have been sharing without the knowledge of system administrators. Of course with things on a much smaller scale it was easier to spot, but nonetheless it was necessary to do a fair bit of work to actually check on the content and relevant legality.

    And how is a provider to know what's legal and what's not. My Mega account currently hosts a couple of versions of Avid's high-end editing software Media Composer. While currently I am not sharing the links, I may do in the future with people I believe are entitled to access the software (older versions of Avid's software will soon be unavailable on their servers for some silly licensing reason with the installer).

    Beyond that, I also have some copies of various videos and TV shows I've worked on in various places online. While I'm not allowed to distribute those, it's not unreasonable for me to hold copies for my personal use.

    Without knowing me and my use there is no way for an online provider like Mega to accurately assess my legal right to hold (or even distribute) any given work, even if their system allowed them to do so technically.

    Cameron Slater isn't an idiot when it comes to technology, he understands this. He's being unbelievably (but perhaps not unsurprisingly) disingenuous with this issue.

    Auckland • Since Aug 2008 • 306 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    That didn’t greatly mollify the critics.

    To be fair Russell, I don’t think your fur would be easily unruffled if it was your signature on the invoices for the rather substantial reprint of The Luminaries arriving this week instead of VUP publisher Fergus Barrowman.

    And for the record there’s a perfectly legit e-book available for a hair less than twenty bucks.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12333 posts Report Reply

  • Dylan Reeve, in reply to Cam Slater,

    And again for your benefit and for all the enablers of Dotcom…I will not be revealing my source or details of how I came by the story.

    Yet Cam, I'm sure you understand the legal and technical impossibilities of Mega actually pro-actively preventing copyright infringement?

    Unless you're suggesting that Dotcom or some other Mega employee uploaded the file and is sharing the link far and wide then Mega holds absolutely no blame, especially if they responds appropriately to notices which is the only practical way they (or any similar company) can address the issue. I've seen no suggestion that Mega doesn't respond to those notices appropriately.

    Auckland • Since Aug 2008 • 306 posts Report Reply

  • Mike Kilpatrick,

    I found the Publishers Association's response laughable, particularly given copies of 'The Luminaries' are available on at least two other more easily accessible sites than Mega.

    So one person uploaded the copy, didn't share it with anyone (except possibly WhaleOil if his claims that he didn't upload it are to be believed) and it's a national disgrace?

    I also find WhaleOil's railing against the site because they deny artists and publishers their well-earned income galling after he apparently suggested uploading someone else's book to the internet to deny them the very thing he's supposedly defending.

    Personally I can't wait for WhaleOil's anti-YouTube campaign given they're, at this point, way worse in providing illicit access to copyrighted work than Mega is.

    Auckland • Since Feb 2007 • 16 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Mike Kilpatrick,

    Personally I can’t wait for WhaleOil’s anti-YouTube campaign given they’re, at this point, way worse in providing illicit access to copyrighted work than Mega is.

    It's not the same thing. Virtually all music and most other video material is identified by YouTube, which notifies registered owners. Any original master recordings which appear in any context on YouTube effectively remain there with the permission of the rights owners, who collect a small revenue share on them.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22029 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Mike Kilpatrick,

    I found the Publishers Association’s response laughable, particularly given copies of ‘The Luminaries’ are available on at least two other more easily accessible sites than Mega.

    What was laughable about it? You are aware, right, that PANZ president Sam Elworthy is also the publisher of Auckland University Press, not some subsidiary of a sub-division of a media multinational for whom New Zealand barely registers at the corporate mothership.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12333 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    It doesn't help that the text publishing industry is going down the same DRM loop that failed for the music industry.

    If you make books deliberately awkward to use with DRM that has side-effects ranging from not being able to copy and paste code snippets to Amazon deleting people's whole library then there's a strong temptation to try and grab an illicit copy - because that copy isn't just cheaper - it's *better*.

    (And a book is easy to rip, because its such a small chunk of data).

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5494 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    To be fair Russell, I don’t think your fur would be easily unruffled if it was your signature on the invoices for the rather substantial reprint of The Luminaries arriving this week instead of VUP publisher Fergus Barrowman.

    The Publishers Association release was pretty strong stuff though -- it accused Mega of knowingly "ripping off" New Zealand authors. It's pretty hard to stand up such an accusation in the circumstances.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22029 posts Report Reply

  • Samuel Scott,

    I'm reading it at the moment, and I kinda wish I had purchased the ebook as I'm travelling a lot this month and it's just too heavy! I seriously think hardcopy books should come with download codes like vinyl. Wouldn't that be great for the user? A nice copy for you bookshelf and a copy to read on the plane.

    South Wellington • Since Feb 2008 • 315 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    "More so, given its use of encryption."

    Isn't that kind of the issue? Person who made his fortune by helping people share files they had no right to upload (and I'm passing no judgment on what kind of social ill that may or may not represent) creates service that makes it harder to tell if a user has done so. A service he intends to profit from. Whether or not Mega uploaded the file himself is immaterial (by the time I caught the story, no-one was suggesting he had). There is a broader cui bono issue here. Does Mega, does Orcon or any other ISP for that matter, profit from the volume of illegitimately shared material? How do their interests shape the debate on copyright? The Luminaries just makes the question a bit sharper in the context of local publishing. (It's harder to feel bad about sharing a Warner Bros film.)

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • SteveH,

    the infringing e-book file has only ever been accessed by the same customer who uploaded it

    If it has only ever been accessed by the uploader how do we even know that this is copyright infringement? The uploader could have been someone from the publisher who had (explicit or implied) permission to do so. And I believe an owner of and ebook could legally upload it to Mega provided they did not share the link.

    Mega identified the two instances of the infringing e-book

    How did they identify those two instances? Mega are not able to access the file contents, right? If they identified the files by name, how did they verify those files were in fact the book itself and not (for example) someone's review of the book?

    Since Sep 2009 • 443 posts Report Reply

  • Mike Kilpatrick, in reply to Russell Brown,

    I take your point that YouTube has found a way to deal with certain aspects of this.

    However there are forums dedicated to people uploading and sharing full movies and television shows on YouTube, which are updated often as the companies who own the copyright get the videos withdrawn.

    So not the same, no, but I think it's analogous. People are using YouTube to upload copyrighted material for others to access, without permission, which could well deny those right-holders money via legitimate methods. (I don't necessarily think that argument holds, but for the sake of my point I'm using it.)

    Anyway, I was being rather facetious in my original reply so won't digress any further.

    Auckland • Since Feb 2007 • 16 posts Report Reply

  • SteveH, in reply to giovanni tiso,

    does Orcon or any other ISP for that matter, profit from the volume of illegitimately shared material?

    Given that ISPs in NZ still charge based on volume they clearly do. So why are Cam Slater and publishers not railing against the ISPs?

    Since Sep 2009 • 443 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    It doesn’t help that the text publishing industry is going down the same DRM loop that failed for the music industry.

    Well you might want to drop VUP and meBooks a line if that’s the case with The Luminaries because when they launched they made quite a noise about being DRM-free.

    The Publishers Association release was pretty strong stuff though – it accused Mega of knowingly “ripping off” New Zealand authors. It’s pretty hard to stand up such an accusation in the circumstances.

    That's a fair tone note, Russell, but I think we can both acknowledge there's a fair amount of legitimate frustration behind it.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12333 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to giovanni tiso,

    Isn't that kind of the issue? Person who made his fortune by helping people share files they had no right to upload (and I'm passing no judgment on what kind of social ill that may or may not represent) creates service that makes it harder to tell if a user has done so.

    Encryption does also make it much harder for potential downloaders to find such files. They're not indexed by Google, which can only see open advertisements for infringing content.

    You run into tricky territory if you start telling people they can't protect their own privacy via encryption, when there are legitimate reasons they might wish to do so.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22029 posts Report Reply

  • Morgan Davie,

    So it’s been accessed by the uploader only?

    Then Mr Slater either:
    * trusted his source about what the file was, and ran his story without bothering to check it actually was The Luminaries there, OR
    * uploaded it himself so didn’t need to check.

    The first is simply unbelievable. Isn’t it?
    Is there any other possibility?

    Wellington • Since May 2008 • 36 posts Report Reply

  • Mike Kilpatrick, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    It was laughable because it said Mega ripped off Eleanor Catton, which there is absolutely zero proof for. A copy was uploaded by a person, who remains the only person to have accessed that copy.

    There are many other sites who are hosting copies of Catton's magnificent work (which I have purchased twice and supported with other books purchased so don't require you to point out anything about Auckland University Press or Sam Elworthy), which could rightfully be criticised for - I think Mega was the wrong target on this occasion.

    The release also said links (plural) had been made available for free download of the book. Not true. No-one had those links apart from the uploader and perhaps Whale Oil.

    “MEGA should do more to ensure this kind of thing does not occur.” Pardon? They took the infringing content down before they normally would have. Unless you believe any potential host/dropbox etc for online files should scan for possible copyrighted material before accepting it, what else are they supposed to do?

    A Google Drive, Dropbox etc account could have done exactly the same as this. Mega was used in this case. Trying to hold Mega up as somehow worse because it's a Kiwi company just seemed strange and yes, laughable, to me.

    Auckland • Since Feb 2007 • 16 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    Well you might want to drop VUP and meBooks a line if that’s the case with The Luminaries because when they launched they made quite a noise about being DRM-free.

    Fergus is a smart guy. He can see that publishers are in danger of being captured by the big online retailers to an even worse degree than the music companies were by iTunes. A retailer that controls access to your work via DRM can -- and will -- control its pricing and supply.

    Look at how brutal Amazon has been this year:

    Early last year, one of the big-six U. S. publishing houses, Macmillan, pushed back against the growing power of Amazon. At the time, Amazon had near total control of the electronic book market and was pricing e-books at a loss in order to maintain its market dominance and keep potential competitors on the margins.

    Fearful of being at the mercy of a single buyer, Macmillan decided to level the playing field for other retailers. It declared that it would determine the retail prices for its e-books and pay booksellers a 30 percent commission on each sale.

    Apple, which was just entering the e-book business with its iPad, quickly agreed to Macmillan’s terms. But Amazon balked. It removed the buy button from every Macmillan title on its web site. The showdown lasted a few days and then Amazon relented, agreeing to the new pricing structure. Since then, every major U. S. publisher has adopted Macmillan’s pricing policy.

    But, of course, using a common, open format also has the side-effect of making your works more amenable to piracy.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22029 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Samuel Scott,

    I’m reading it at the moment, and I kinda wish I had purchased the ebook as I’m travelling a lot this month and it’s just too heavy! I seriously think hardcopy books should come with download codes like vinyl. Wouldn’t that be great for the user? A nice copy for you bookshelf and a copy to read on the plane.

    I chatted to Fergus Barrowman a bit about this via Twitter. Some specialist publishers do this, but I gather the market dominance of Amazon et al makes it very difficult to do in many cases.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22029 posts Report Reply

  • Dylan Reeve, in reply to giovanni tiso,

    “More so, given its use of encryption.”

    Isn’t that kind of the issue? Person who made his fortune by helping people share files they had no right to upload (and I’m passing no judgment on what kind of social ill that may or may not represent) creates service that makes it harder to tell if a user has done so. A service he intends to profit from. Whether or not Mega uploaded the file himself is immaterial (by the time I caught the story, no-one was suggesting he had). There is a broader cui bono issue here. Does Mega, does Orcon or any other ISP for that matter, profit from the volume of illegitimately shared material? How do their interests shape the debate on copyright? The Luminaries just makes the question a bit sharper in the context of local publishing. (It’s harder to feel bad about sharing a Warner Bros film.)

    The encryption is only a small part really. There’s no specific way to identify any given piece of content. YouTube manages, to some extent, because everything they host is simple video and audio data. They can apply a range of techniques to figure it out.

    A file locker, even without client-side encryption, faces a tougher challenge. Any given file could contain any type of data, it’s not easily possible to identify, with software, what that data is in a practical context.

    One of the arguments made in the case against Megaupload, however, is that they didn’t remove all copies of a file when notified. Specifically they appear to have used a de-duplication technique that identifies duplicate files across their service (so if you an I upload exactly the same file, then it may store only one copy of the data, but point both our “files” at that data) – the argument being that if one “copy” of that file was reported as infringing then they should have removed all copies of the same data.

    That is a problem because you can’t specifically know that any given file is infringing just because it is certain data.

    Imagine I paid $5 to download the DRM-free version of Louis CK’s latest special and store a copy of that file on my Megaupload account so that I could grab a copy of it later from another computer to watch. Imagine then that someone else had purchased the same video file, put it in a Megaupload account and then shared the link to that file on many forums and other sites. If a takedown notice was issued against that user’s copy of the file then it would be justified to delete it, but if my copy were deleted also – that would not be justified, my storage of that file is not infringing.

    Mega differentiates itself to users with it’s privacy, but at the same time it also protects the company from a repeat of that same claim. Every user’s file is unique to them – if you and I upload exactly the same file to Mega there’s no way that Mega can know that. It only acts on notices it receives of infringing use (storing a file for personal use is not infringing).

    The question of whether Mega profits from illegally shared material is hard to say. Unlike Megaupload and most other free file lockers, there are no banner ads on Mega’s download pages (also no inducements to signup for a paid account for faster downloads etc), and given that you can get 50GB for free on Mega with just an email address it’s hard to see why a pirate would choose to use a paid account to host illegal files. If anything I’d say that illegal sharing costs Mega money.

    My understanding is that Mega isn’t even that popular within piracy circles as I believe there are download limits enforced also.

    Auckland • Since Aug 2008 • 306 posts Report Reply

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