Megaupload: 4 Questions Answered About the File-Sharing Website

1:23 PM PST 01/21/2012 by THR Staff

Earlier this week, authorities shut down the site and arrested several employees on charges of violating copyright laws.

On Thursday, federal authorities shut down mega file-sharing website Megaupload and arrested several employees, including founder Kim Dotcom, on charges of violating copyright laws.

But what exactly is Megaupload? Here are four things to know about the site that once was:

1. What is Megaupload?: Megaupload was a file-sharing website, which meant that it allowed its users to upload, transfer and download files using its servers. Other websites that are similar in vein include Mediafire and Dropbox, which also allow their users to transfer files that may have been too large for an email attachment to be successfully sent. In a 72-page indictment, authorities said that though Megaupload claimed to be in compliance with the notice and takedown provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, they said it wasn't true: It did "not actually function as a DMCA compliance tool as the copyright owners were led to believe."

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2. Did users pay for services?: Users were also able to pay for "premium" memberships, giving them the ability to access and download bigger files not available to those who were non-paying visitors. Authorities noted that the majority of the $175 million that had been earned since 2005 were due to copyright infringement.

3. Were there offshoots?: Megaupload also had several offshoot websites, including Megavideo and Megapix. Users could watch hosted video on the ad-supported Megavideo for an allotted period of time before they would be "locked" out. Megapix was a photo-hosting website similar to the likes of Photobucket. In fact, shortly after Megaupload was shut down, a remnant of the file-sharing service popped up at Megavideo.bz.

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4. Did the Megaupload viral video increase awareness of its existence?: The viral video that surfaced with superstars like Kanye West, Will.i.am and Jamie Foxx seemingly supporting Megaupload may have boosted the site's profile. "Megaupload had attracted the attention of some celebrities, and I think that may have put them on the radar a bit more than other file-sharing sites," said ex-hacker and founder of Internet services company 3Crowd Barrett Lyons in an interview with NPR. Added Nicolas Christin, associate director at Carnegie Mellon's Information Networking Institute: "It's probably that it raised their profile more in the eyes of the motion picture industry. The entertainment industry has pushed quite hard for authorities to intervene in cases like this."

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