They’ve been indicted by the U.S. government for conspiracy and briefly thrown in jail, but Kim Dotcom and his partners in the digital storage locker Megaupload have no intention of quitting the online marketplace.
Instead the co-defendants plan to introduce a much-anticipated new technology later this year that will allow users to once again upload, store, and share large data files, albeit by different rules. They revealed details of the new service exclusively to Wired.
They call it Mega and describe it as a unique tool that will solve the liability problems faced by cloud storage services, enhance the privacy rights of internet users, and provide themselves with a simple new business. Meanwhile, critics fear that Mega is simply a revamped version of Megaupload, cleverly designed to skirt the old business’s legal issues without addressing the concerns of Internet piracy.
(Dotcom and three of his partners remain in New Zealand, where they were arrested in January 2012. They face extradition to the U.S. on charges of “engaging in a racketeering conspiracy, conspiring to commit copyright infringement, conspiring to commit money laundering, and two substantive counts of criminal copyright infringement,” according to the Department of Justice.)
What Mega and Megaupload do have in common is that they are both one-click, subscriber-based cloud platforms that allow customers to upload, store, access, and share large files. Dotcom, and his Mega partner Mathias Ortmann say the difference is that now those files will first be one-click-encrypted right in a client’s browser, using the so-called Advanced Encryption Standard algorithm. The user is then provided with a second unique key for that file’s decryption.
It will be up to users, and third-party app developers, to control access to any given uploaded file, be it a song, movie, videogame, book, or simple text document. Internet libertarians will surely embrace this new capability.
And because the decryption key is not stored with Mega, the company would have no means to view the uploaded file on its server. It would, Ortmann explains, be impossible for Mega to know, or be responsible for, its users’ uploaded content — a state of affairs engineered to create an ironclad “safe harbor” from liability for Mega, and added piece of mind for the user.
“If servers are lost, if the government comes into a data center and rapes it, if someone hacks the server or steals it, it would give him nothing,” Dotcom explains. “Whatever is uploaded to the site, it is going to be remain closed and private without the key.”
Dotcom’s belief is that even the broad interpretation of internet law that brought down Megaupload would be insufficient to thwart the new Mega, because what users share, how they share it, and how many people they share it with will be their responsibility and under their control, not Mega’s.
Dotcom says that according to his legal experts, the only way to stop such a service from existing is to make encryption itself illegal. “And according to the U.N. Charter for Human Rights, privacy is a basic human right,” Dotcom explains. “You have the right to protect your private information and communication against spying.”