Photo: AP Photo/New Zealand Herald, Richard Robinson
THERE are less conspicuous ways to launch a business. A staged helicopter raid and a synchronised dance routine that would put Korean rapper Psy to shame were the sideline attractions as German-born entrepreneur Kim Dotcom, a 39-year old whose bluster is as big as his waistline, returned to public life with his new site, Mega. Much like Megaupload, Mr Dotcom’s previous troublesome offering, Mega works as a file storage and sharing service.The site claims more than 1m users have registered since its launch in New Zealand yesterday, which is not an implausible number since Mr Dotcom is something of an internet celebrity. The website’s servers seem unable to cope with the large initial interest. Those who sign up to the website will have access to 50 gigabytes of free storage space to store and share files with other users—10 times the free storage space provided by Google Drive, and 25 times the amount offered by Dropbox, the two major competitors in the field.
Mr Dotcom claimed yesterday that “nothing will stop Mega,” before sounding a bellicose war cry from his (rather large) lungs. That remains to be seen.
His previous website, Megaupload, was seized and shut down by America’s Department of Justice a year ago amidst claims of copyright infringement, racketeering and money laundering. While Google Drive serves mainly as a collaboration tool for workers in businesses (allowing several users to simultaneously work on the same document in real time), and Dropbox is often used by media professionals to transfer proofs of a magazine page or billboard design, Megaupload was used by many to share illegally-downloaded music and movies, a complaint by the Motion Picture Association of America alleged.
Mega doesn’t seem all that different to Megaupload in design, apart from one clever little difference: files transferred through the new service will be encrypted, and only the user—and those the user chooses to share with—will hold the key. Some might call it the see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil defence: if Mr Dotcom doesn’t know what you’re sharing, he can’t be brought before court for copyright infringement. Mr Dotcom is no monkey, but it’s a risky bet, and one that is unlikely to stand up to judicial scrutiny. Yet many are willing him to succeed. Mr Dotcom’s boorish personality and outlandish actions are a stark contrast to Apple’s or Google’s strait-laced corporate upper echelons.
There also remains the small problem of Mr Dotcom’s bail conditions, one of which is that he may not start a business in the same vein as Megaupload while his criminal investigation in America is continuing. Some fancy footwork beyond that displayed on stage yesterday in New Zealand may be needed to convince the authorities to not draw down the shutters on his latest endeavour.
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