What's the Controversial Site Megaupload.com All About?

Article excerpt

(CNN) -- Megaupload, the file-sharing website shut down Thursday by the U.S. federal government, is a Web hosting tool that now finds itself accused of being an online haven for digital pirates.

Many people probably never have heard of the site. But to millions, the 6-year-old site, based in Hong Kong, was a fast, easy way to store massive files in a "locker" online and then share them with friends or colleagues.

At various points in its history, Megaupload has been among the most popular websites in the world.

And it once had the support of some celebrities. A (really bizarre) YouTube video shows Kanye West, Kim Kardashian, P. Diddy and several other celebrities vouching for the site in an apparent music video-style advertisement.

But the site has long suffered accusations of allowing less-than- legal files to pass through its computer servers.

"Megaupload was always going to get taken down -- far too flagrant publication of copyrighted material," Jonathan Riggall, a website editor living in Barcelona, Spain, wrote on TorrentFreak, a blog devoted to file-sharing issues.

"I think sharing on the Web is great, and I don't care if it's copyrighted material -- but Megaupload and some similar sites are making loads of money out of making it possible for people to view pirated stuff. Of course they will be targeted as they are blatantly breaking laws."

The U.S. attorney for Megaupload.com denies the government's allegations.

'We believe that the allegations are without merit and Megaupload is going to vigorously defend against the case," attorney Ira Rothken said.

Created in 2005, Megaupload was the 72nd-most-visited site on the Web during the past three months and has peaked as high as No. 13, according to Internet traffic analytics firm Alexa.

The site offered what's called "one-click hosting," letting users upload anything on their hard drive or in cloud storage to the Web.

The service gives users a URL that can then be shared with others -- often on discreet online message boards or social networks -- letting them access the file as well.

MegaVideo was the site's video service, letting even nonmembers view more than an hour of video at a time on the site, and MegaPix was a photo storage and sharing site in the mold of Flickr or Photobucket.

People who paid for a premium account on the site were able to upload and download larger files.

It was, by all accounts, a successful business model.

The U.S. government said that it seized $50 million in assets and that much of the $175 million the site has earned since 2005 was due to copyright infringement. As Ars Technica notes, even the site's graphic designer reportedly earned $1 million last year, and between them, the seven indicted people (including the creatively named Kim Dotcom) owned 15 Mercedes-Benzes, a Maserati, a Rolls-Royce and a Lamborghini. …