It started with SOPA, an American legislation to fight off online piracy and illegal file sharing. The proposition was opposed across the online space as people felt it would threaten the right to freedom of expression, and was soon taken down. But the hunt for digital pirates is far from over.
Recently, Megaupload.com was shut down under charges of blatant online piracy, and its owners were arrested and prosecuted. The crackdown continued on to peer to peer sharing networks such as thepiratebay.org, who have shifted their servers and the owners are fleeing arrest. Since then, many websites providing free file hosting have been forced to either shut down or disable file sharing, in a move that is having interesting repercussions.
While everyone can agree that online piracy of intellectual property is a crime and must be suppressed, the methods recently adopted leave some room for debate. Consider the case of many legitimate users who were using these websites to back up their personal data, but now have been forbidden access to it. And if the websites themselves are finally being held accountable for the content uploaded by users, what about sharing networks like YouTube or even Facebook?
The going has already become hard for these websites, as they are being forced to take sides and chalk out a concrete policy. Some of them have disabled file sharing to avoid any trouble. But the real threat this brings is to the emerging cloud computing services model, which relies on data hosting and sharing. Let’s hope the industry can make its way through the chaos right now.