The day after last week's inspiring protest against overreaching anti-piracy laws, the U.S. Department of Justice demonstrated that they don't need those laws, anyway. They just went ahead and unilaterally shut down Megaupload, the world's most popular cyberlocker. Rumor has it that similar sites like MediaFire and 4shared are under investigation and have been deleting files, while FileSonic preemptively disabled all sharing features.
As a result, much of the history of recorded sound has been made inaccessible to the public. I'm talking, of course, about the music blogosphere. The best music blogs aren't pirates. They are libraries, sound archivists and music preservationists sharing recordings that would not otherwise be available. And now sites like Global Groove, Mutant Sounds, and Holy Warbles have lost large swaths of the material they'd salvaged from obscurity.
Fortunately not all of the music on these blogs have been lost; because of the nature of online sharing copies now exist all over the world. Some of the links on Mutant Sounds are still active, too, like this Karen Cooper Complex album. 1981's Shinjuku Birdwalk came out of the vibrant Richmond VA experimental scene, it was never even released until it appeared on the Free Music Archive (previously featured here, and on Mutant Sounds here). These are the types of genuine "Artifacts" I would love to host more of, but since we do things by the book here at the FMA, it's often difficult to track down rightsholders to get official permission.
It always bothered me to discover artists sharing their own original work via an untrustworthy website like Megaupload. I never liked their approach of charging for quicker access to files, and their advertisements (including the Mega Song) always felt kinda icky. The Mega Conspiracy alleges that Megaupload was actually designed to profit from media piracy through tactics like a reward for users who pirated films before their release date. Paramount Pictures claimed that Mega sites made as much as $300 million a year in large part by selling ads and charging for access to copyrighted work. That figure is from a great SSRC article titled "Meganomics." Author Joe Karaganis describes how most cyberlockers and torrent sites don't profit nearly that much, if at all, and he proposes that we factor this into a clearer definition of what it means to infringe on a "commercial scale."
Back to the site that tipped that scale: even if they were just the new sleazy middleman in the distribution chain, millions of users had come to rely on Megaupload for very legitimate uses. Now their files are gone. But they are not lost, thanks to the nature of online sharing which necessitates the creation of new copies. It is inspiring to see the Mutant Sounds community come together along these lines, re-upping files from their personal collections to restore the communal archive.
Long live the blogosphere!
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