In case you haven’t been following the news, the US Department of Justice seized the file-sharing site MegaUpload, taking its domain names, $50 million in assets, and coordinated with law enforcement officials in other countries to arrest key employees, as described by ars technica.
MegaUpload, as the name suggests, is (was) a file-sharing site that officially discouraged the uploading of copyrighted material. However, the government alleges that employees of the site knew full well that they were distributing infringing content. The government points to numerous internal e-mails and chat logs from employees showing that they were aware of copyrighted material on the site and even shared it with each other. Because of this, the government says that the site does not qualify for a “safe harbor” of the kind that protected YouTube from Viacom’s $1 billion lawsuit.
The obvious question arises: why do we need bills like SOPA and PIPA if the federal government already has the authority to shut down illegal file sharing sites?
In response to the US government’s action to stop illegal file sharing and copyright infringement, and the takedown of MegaUpload, hacking group Anonymous released a message sharing its thoughts:
Here are some excerpts from the transcript of the video:
We have been watching recent events as they have slowly but surely unfolded, from the distortion and destruction of the first amendment to legalize and justify political bribery, to the dawn of a new political struggle consisting of millions of citizens crying out in indignation at this misappropriation of the judicial system, and to the very proposal of the so called, "Stop Online Piracy Act", SOPA, without any concern to ethicality, morality, or responsibility.
Suffice to say, we are angry.
Citizens of the Global Community, join us. Let us defend our home, the internet.
Operation Revenge, engaged.
Operation Megaupload, engaged.
Operation Blackout, engaged.
We are Anonymous.
We are Legion.
We do not Forgive.
We do not Forget.
To the United States Government, you should’ve expected us.
Note the paradox of ethical conduct:
- Shutting down a file sharing site that is knowingly breaking US law by distributing copyrighted material is wrong.
- Secretly conscripting users into a DDOS attack is permissible.
While Anonymous’ actions are consistent with hacktivism and the hacker ethic, their brashness risks drawing the attention and ire of law enforcement.
In the stock market, there is a saying: There are old traders, and there are bold traders. But there are no old, bold traders.
Hackivists would do well to heed this advice.