Kim Dotcom, the indicted Megaupload tycoon, has some news about his accusers: they’re also his customers. The defiant Dotcom (real name, Kim Shmitz) lobs some grenades back at his attackers in an interview with the filesharing news site Torrentfreak. Among other claims, he insists that many movie industry employees were paying him for online file storage. So, while the Motion Picture Association of America was lobbying the U.S. Government to pursue criminal action against Megaupload, employees of its member companies were using Megaupload to, well, mega upload (and, one assumes, to mega download).
There’s little doubt that Dotcom’s claims are true. As anyone who works in media can tell you, moving around gigantic files is still a mega pain. Email attachments are usually capped at 10-30 megs. When people in creative fields need to share large, uncompressed audio,video, and photography files, cloud services like Megaupload come in very handy. This lends support to Dotcom’s argument that Megaupload has many legitimate uses and is not simply a piracy enabler.
Yet I suspect that if the accounts of these industry clients were scrutinized, you’d find no shortage of illicit file sharing going on within studio walls as well. I’m not saying that movie industry folks are pirating for personal use (heaven forbid). I’m suggesting (or rather, I’m letting you know) that in a field where people need to watch movies and television episodes regularly for professional reasons, piracy is simply the quickest way of doing so.
When a producer needs to see an actor’s last performance for casting reasons, they can send their intern out to to pick up a DVD, or they can just download it. If a producer needs to familiarize their writers with an obscure British sitcom for reference purposes (so they can swipe from it), they either order three sets of the first season through Amazon and wait, or they can just have their assistant burn some discs. If the stuff is on Netflix or iTunes, they’ll pay for it, and why not? It’s not their money. But if it isn’t available legitimately in an accessible and sharable format, no one will stand on ceremony. The show must go on.
I know that this happens because I’ve seen it happen. I’ve known employees of entertainment companies who download torrents of videos that they’ve produced themselves!
I ‘m drawing on a handful of personal experiences, but it would be interesting to see Kim Dotcom prove that this occurs regularly. Has it become standard industry procedure? Imagine if Hollywood was using filesharing technology for the same practical reasons we all do: not because they love stealing, but because they hate waiting for tiered release dates, hate waiting for ads and previews to end, and hate wading through digital locks that make sharing content difficult.