The file-sharing service Mega has fielded 150 copyright warnings since its recent launch as founder Kim Dotcom grows a risky new business while under indictment by US prosecutors for running Megaupload.
And a French website appears to already be faltering after collecting links to content stored by Mega, including files purported to be the film Django Unchained, Microsoft's Office software and Elton John's hit 'Bennie and the Jets'.
Mega, which launched on January 20, allows people to store 50GB of encrypted content for free. The content, which can be shared between users by sharing a link to it, can be decrypted if a user also shares the encryption key.
Mega was developed with an eye to avoid the copyright infringement allegations that plagued Megaupload, which was shuttered in January 2012. Since uploaded content is encrypted, Mega cannot determine the content of files stored. But it will remove content upon receiving a valid notification of copyright infringement.
Ira P. Rothken, one of Mega and Megaupload's many attorneys, said this morning the service has reacted promptly to notices of copyright violations "including assisting some in fixing incomplete or defective notices."
"Mega doesn't want folks to use its cloud storage services for infringing purposes," Rothken said.
In the US, service providers may receive notifications of copyright infringement under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). If valid and presented in the right form, the service provider is required to quickly remove or block the content.
Rothken said the 150 requests, which concern 250 files, came from the US as well as other countries. Many countries including the US have so-called "safe harbour" provisions in their copyright laws, which exempts providers from liability as long as infringing content is removed.
An official from the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), which has campaigned for years to halt illegal file sharing, did not have an immediate comment on Mega. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) could not immediately be reached.
Mega does not have a search function to find files stored by other users files. But it appears at least one website is attempting to collect links to content stored on Mega to make it easier for people to connect to other users and their files.
Mega-search.me features a search engine. A search for Quentin Tarrantino's latest film, 'Django Unchained', resulted in a host of links that purportedly lead to the movie. The site has one banner ad.
In the indictment against Megaupload, prosecutors alleged that its operators generated more than $150 million from subscriptions and at least $25 million from advertising revenue on the back of a brisk trade in content under copyright protection.
Mega-search.me was functioning normally this morning but then faltered. Just four days after Mega launched, Mega-search.me boasted that it hosted more than 2,000 links to Mega content.
Several of the site's tweets are in French, with some in English. The domain name registration, found through a whois search, is private, and its hosting provider appears to be OVH in France.
It could not be immediately established why the site was having difficulties. Efforts to reach Mega-search.me were unsuccessful.
An analysis of Mega-search.me's network structure this morning showed at one time it was using the services of CloudFlare, a San Francisco-based company that provides a worldwide network of data centres intended to speed the delivery of web pages and reduce bandwidth. But it then appeared to have stopped using CloudFlare's infrastructure.
CloudFlare CEO Matthew Prince said if Mega-search.me was using his service before, "we weren't aware."
"If they aren't using CloudFlare now, it wasn't because of an action on our part," he said. CloudFlare has a free service that users can sign up for. In its terms of service, however, CloudFlare warns it will terminate service if a website is violating the law.
Concerning copyright infringement, Rothken contends Mega is a cloud storage provider similar to Google's YouTube video service. File storage services are dual-use technologies that can be used both legitimately and illegally, he said.
"Copyright extremists will usually heckle such dual-use technologies focusing on the bad uses while ignoring the socially beneficial uses," he said.
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