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Big media is afraid to try to take down Google's ubiquitous video hosting site

FileSonic, UK-based Earnwell Ltd.'s file-sharing service, is afraid -- very afraid.  In the wake of the Megaupload takedown/arrests, FileSonic is making some major changes to its service, changes that disable sharing.

I. Fearful FileSonic Terminates Sharing

Before the changes FileSonic functioned almost identically to Megaupload.  Customers could enroll for free, but in FileSonic's case it was only a 30-day trial.  For those 30 days they could upload 10 GB, but saw their content throttled.  Customers could opt to enroll for $9/month, which would remove the throttling and allow customers to upload unlimited files 5 GB or smaller.

Like Megaupload, FileSonic claims to have a "zero tolerance" policy when it comes to violations of the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which forbids sites from participating in copyright infringement by hosting openly accessible copyrighted works.  It says it uses Vobile's vCloud9 software to scan uploaded files, including compressed files, to detect infringement.

But in the wake of the Megaupload mess, FileSonic apparently decided that it would simply have to cut sharing of files altogether, as it was apparently afraid that vCloud9 was not a strong enough protection.  The problem is, of course, lots of users share files for purposes other than infringement.

FileSonic changes

The site announced its decision via a banner, which states, "All sharing functionality on FileSonic is now disabled.  Our service can only be used to upload and retrieve files that you have uploaded personally."

We predict some cancelled subscriptions in the near future.

II. Fileserve Also Sounds Death Knell

In related news Fileserve -- another Megaupload competitor -- has begun to make major changes, which some say could be an indication that the company is preparing to pull the plug altogether.  One of the key complaints against Megaupload in the Grand Jury criminal court filing was that the service paid users to share in order to profit off of advertisements, a scheme they liken to infringement for ad profits.

Fileserve ran an almost identical service (which paid $25 per 1,000 downloads), but it has since closed this "affiliate program", scouring all traces of it off its homepage.

Users are also reporting that their accounts were removed.  When they tried to log in, they were greeted with a warning that their account had violated the Terms of Service, hence the deletion.  But customers say that the site appears to be deleting all customers who were in the affiliate program, not just the few who may have abused it.

Amid mass outrage, Fileserve looks ready to collapse.   Outraged customers/affiliates are claiming in forums posts that the service "is a scam", thanks to Fileserve' unfulfilled promises of payment, and that the site "is finished."

As the site and its administrators are U.S. based, according to IP lookups some users took things a step further, even writing an admin that they were "Coming to kick your ass!"

III. YouTube is Magically Immune to Infringement Worries

It appears that there's much fear in the wake of the Megaupload takedown -- and perhaps for good reason.  While big media may be unrealistic in its expectation of converting infringers into filesharers, this is at least a major moral victory for rich movie studios and record labels, as file-hosting sites remaining a major source of piracy, behind the more traditional peer-to-peer networks and torrents.

This atmosphere of fear, uncertainty, and disinformation (FUD) is unfortunate, though, as it prevents legitimate sharing.

A handful of sites, such as RapidShare, are holding out, but it would not be surprising to see them collapse in coming months, either out of fearful admins or from Megaupload-like arrests.

The elephant in the room in all of this is YouTube.  Google Inc.'s (GOOG) YouTube is used by hundreds of millions of Americans, but it is also one of the biggest sources of shared infringed content online.

Despite anti-infringement warnings, similar to Megaupload, Fileserve, and FileSonic's, virtually any song you can imagine is available on YouTube, most of which were not posted by the copyright holder.

For example, let's say we want to listen to Young Jeezy's "Welcome Back", but it isn't available on the authorized Vevo channel, or else the Vevo version has censored profanity.  We simply search "Welcome Back", and lo and behold page after page of infringed song is available for our listening pleasure.

Young Jeezy infringed copies

The same goes for sporting events, TV clips, and more.  This content can easily be downloaded for offline viewing/listening via an array of browser extensions.  

YouTube even has a pay-for-play affiliates program, similar to Megaupload's and Fileserve's.  

Of course like these file-sharing sites YouTube hosts a vast array of legitimate content as well.  But it is hard to argue the fact that YouTube is getting favored child status, allowed to commit the same offenses that others are imprisoned for.  It's reasonably clear why this is -- the government (and big media) are afraid of the public outcry that would occur if they took down YouTube.  Plus big media has tried to take down YouTube before -- and failed.

But this policy of unequal enforcement smacks of Mafioso techniques.  The small and the weak are shaken down, while the strong are allowed to do what they please.  One must wonder how long such an inherently unequal and corrupt system will be able to sustain itself, before something will snap (perhaps a takedown of YouTube) and the public reacts strongly, as they did with SOPA.

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RE: Misleading comparison with Youtube
By JasonMick on 1/23/2012 2:18:13 PM , Rating: 2
Youtube has a strong Content ID protection system. Those Young Jeezy videos in the screenshot - although the content owner did not upload or authorize them, the content owner is making money off the video - click on each of the links, the video is recognized as being the Young Jeezy song, and his record company makes money off any ads shown on the video, as well as the affiliate link to purchase the song.

Content owners can choose to either block their content from being uploaded, or to allow this and get all the money from the ads. Filesonic etc did not allow this choice - content owners got nothing from the illegally shared files.

I hate the way the MAFIAA are riding slipshod over the internet, but don't draw Youtube into the crossfire, they aren't doing anything wrong.

I'm not arguing with that.

My point is that:
1. You can pick an artist -- e.g. Young Jeezy, Deadmau5, etc.
2. You can pick a specific song.
3. You play the track
4. You rip the track using any host of software programs or browser add-ons.
5. You now have the track on your physical machine -- the same as if you megaupload, p2ped, or torrented it.

I personally know several people who are YouTube affiliates who attest that yes, "infringer" uploaders do get revenue from YouTube for unauthorized posting of tracks (infringed), including leaked tracks. And they seldom get any sort of warning.

Do the record companies get some cut of the standard affiliate fees as you claim? I cannot confirm or deny that.

It does clearly post the artist and links to buy the track legally, so I would assume they:
a) Get some cut of the fees.
b) Get additional downloads via the links (more revenue).

So does YouTube funnel some revenue to the content creators? Sure.

So basically, your argument is that if music labels got a cut of the ad fees and had links to legitimate downloads placed next to the illegally shared files Megaupload and Fileserve, et al. would be fine? Because that's essentially what you're advocating?

My point is that yes, this is a slightly more progressive approach, but it likely will not satisfy big media in the long run as someone else is still getting part of their affiliate fees (or so they would argue).

Further, sporting events (good example -- UFC bouts) are often posted on YouTube in parts and available for at least a day. Yes YouTube complies with the DMCAs and takes these down. But in these cases the content creator gets NO revenue for the duration the video is live.

Is YouTube as extreme in terms of sharing infringed content as Megaupload? Not at all. Does it share a lot infringed content? Absolutely.

My point is that the hammer may drop on YouTube as it has dropped on these others.

Personally I think all of it is ridiculous, but I can appreciate big media's fantasy scenario:
+No online access except from official outlet.
+You have to pay for each listen
+Payments are scaled based on the number of listeners you have in your room.
+No physical media are allowed.
+All files are heavily coated in DRM.
+If you try to break the DRM and make a backup copy (physical media) you can be sent to prison and/or fined $150,000
+If you illegally share you can be sent to prison for life and/or be fined $1M USD.

I'm no big of Megaupload (I never used it myself), et al., but I feel that RIAA/MPAA's logic for justifying takedowns/fines/arrests is a slippery slope argument, which eventually lead them to try yet again to takedown or drastically modify services such as YouTube and SkyDrive.

By priusone on 1/24/2012 3:01:59 PM , Rating: 2
Have you ever tried to watch a feature length movie through youtube? It's a lot harder to do than just downloading the entire flick through megaupload.

Yes, music, music videos, sports clips, and news casts are available on youtube, but I kinda gotta think that the Motion Picture Association of America is probably, slightly, more interested in getting rid of a website that makes downloading movies as easily as megaupload made it.

I don't know anyone who ever really used megaupload for music or music videos. And for that matter, no one I know used youtube for movies and full length TV shows (which, yes, there are some on there, but having them broken into chunks is annoying)

But be careful youtube! They will come after you! Because if they take down megaupload, boy howdy, you're sure to be next... or... something.

"The Space Elevator will be built about 50 years after everyone stops laughing" -- Sir Arthur C. Clarke

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