Monthly Archives: January 2012
File sharing website Megaupload, recently shut down by the US government, could lose all its user data if its assets aren’t unfrozen.
Not only that, the company can’t access the files because it can’t pay for its servers and that means users themselves can’t recover their own data. Data which includes more than just Hollywood movies and TV shows.
The prospect of all those files being lost can’t be measured in a dollar value but the impact could be huge. Other digital locker services have been making big change-ups in light of what happened to Megaupload, and it’s clear many file sharing website users and companies are on the run even if their business model is legitimate.
The shut down of Megaupload comes at a bad time, with the fight(s) against SOPA/PIPA/Bill C-11/ACTA underway around the world. But they do have something in common. Just as those pieces of legislation will have the unintended consequence of stifling creativity and content on the web, so will this ruling against Megaupload. Looking at this breakdown of the company’s indictment, one phrase stands out to me…
…they are willfully infringing copyrights themselves on these systems; have actual knowledge that the materials on their systems are infringing (or alternatively know facts or circumstances that would make infringing material apparent); receive a financial benefit directly attributable to copyright-infringing activity where the provider can control that activity; and have not removed, or disabled access to, known copyright infringing material from servers they control.
So what makes them guilty and Youtube innocent, for example, is that Megaupload was a lot lazier with its take down notices (and the article later notes those facing charges in this whole situation may have uploaded infringing content themselves). I’m not condoning or endorsing everything Megaupload did. The indictment makes some pretty serious claims and has some emails that certainly look pretty bad. What’s important to keep in mind is there’s not much separating sites like Megaupload from other sites like Youtube, and (as I stated on CFRA’s Lunch Bunch a little while back) Megaupload was likely targeted because the US government figured they could get away with it as opposed to going after someone like Google.
The final message I want to leave you with is this: cloud storage and cloud computing is great. Having online storage or digital licenses where you can keep things you’ve bought and paid for is an excellent idea and sometimes its your only option. That being said, memory prices (ie, hard drives, DVDs, etc) have never been cheaper and there’s little excuse for not having a physical copy wherever possible. I’ll leave you with a quote from a friend of mine who spent a lot of his career fixing up computers (the clean version of that quote anyways)…
Back up your stuff!
There comes a time in the growth of every successful company when the founders recognize the need to pass the baton to new leadership. Jim and I went to the Board and told them that we thought that time was now. -Mike Lazaridis, Co-Chair of the board of Directors and now former Co-CEO of Research in Motion
Thus begins the reign of Thorsten Heins, former CEO of Siemens and, most recently, Co-COO of RIM. The markets don’t seem to like that decision at the time of writing though most analysts seem to agree it’s a step in the right direction.
Heins is promising a consumer focus going forward, but that’s not a departure from what RIM has been trying to do in recent years. As RBC Dominion Securities analyst Mike Abramsky points out, “rather than impose rapid change, CEO Heins has already indicated he will be staying the course on RIM’s plans,”. Other analysts who spoke to The Globe and Mail have similar concerns, and point out his background is not focused on RIM’s weak areas right now (marketing and software). It should be noted RIM has a job posting for a new Chief Marketing Officer so they are at least trying to address the marketing issue.
#RIM was trending on Twitter pretty well through the night and is still up there this morning, with plenty of negative commentary and speculation on the company’s future. When you hear things like, “Mr. Balsillie and Mr. Lazaridis have been grooming Mr. Heins as a successor for some time”, and that he doesn’t want to a massive shake up at RIM, it’s easy to sigh and say, “Yep. They’re doomed.” And you may very well be right.
It’s impossible for a company their size to go toe to toe with companies like Google and Apple long-term. And soon they’ll really have to start competing with a third company that has been trying to re-enter the smart phone market for some time now. This particular company is making a big push this year to recapture lost glory as their partnership with Nokia begins to bear fruit (yes, that’s a big hint).
It’s Microsoft. Depending on who you ask, they’ll be somewhere in the top 2 for global smartphone market share within the next three years (and experts disagree on where RIM will be by then, but it doesn’t look pretty). Many suspect their success will come at the expense of Blackberry users. Microsoft is providing a tight, secure environment like you’d get with a Blackberry but, on the plus side, you get very capable and modern phones with a wider variety of apps, slick design, solid touch screens, and no need to worry about network outages (yet). They’re also offering cheaper phones which has historically been part of the appeal for Blackberry users.
So is newly minted RIM CEO Thorsten Heins going to turn the company around and spark a huge revival? Regardless of how well he does his job, not likely. There’s just too many companies on a roll right now, and not enough time to catch up. Many are adopting a wait-and-see approach with Blackberry 10 and Playbook OS 2 both on their way, but by then we’ll have likely seen a new iPhone along with several new Windows Phone 7 and Android devices that far outstrip any RIM offerings. Despite his claims he won’t carve up the company and sell parts of it, that may be the only thing that will save RIM from a slow, quiet fade from the industry they helped create.
UPDATE: It looks like the blackout HAS influenced some lawmakers. Good work!
The ‘Net is buzzing about SOPA.
Actually, it’s not.
Over the course of the last two days, websites have been blacking out in protest of the Stop Online Piracy Act. (Here’s where I’d link to Wikipedia, but they’re offline today.)
They’re also out over PIPA, the Protecting Intellectual Property Act.
The merits of the bills (or lack thereof) have been discussed across the web for weeks. The talk today is about the blackout. A number of backers of the bills are criticizing the likes of Wikipedia and Reddit for “stoking fear” in the public mind or “punishing their users.”
Did you know Wikipedia was blacking out today? If not, what was your immediate thought when you got there and it wasn’t working?
I’m a big fan of protest. I think our right to express our dissatisfaction with the establishment is a very important part of a successful democracy.
But is this protest reaching the policy makers? The two stories I linked to above seem to indicate that while they’re aware of it, they don’t seem to be changing their tune. In fact, it would seem that they’re more intent on using protest to turn the tables of the issue against the protesters, making them into the real enemy.
It’s becoming obvious that the only way to really enact change is to hit people where it hurts. When the domain registrar and host, GoDaddy, said it was backing SOPA, it lost over 70,000 customers almost instantly. The mere act of speaking out in favour of the bill caused GoDaddy to practically hemorrhage money. Customers jumped ship to other domain hosts, to the point where GoDaddy actually changed their mind.
So what’s the lesson here? You need to enact change in a way that will make the people who make decisions take notice. It’s an election year in the U.S. right? Half a dozen old, white men, from a generation that doesn’t quite get the Internet, are competing for a chance become the most powerful person in the world. SOPA, PIPA, Net Neutrality, all of these issues need to become election issues. The U.S. electorate and the U.S. media need to push these issues with the Republican debates, with Obama and with everyone in the house and the senate.
Here in Canada, we have the power to influence dialog. SOPA affects us just as much as the Americans. There are a number of reasons we’re just as much in danger as America. We need to write our MPs, our MPPs. We need to hold them to account and say, right to their faces, that if they are in agreement with SOPA and PIPA, even if it’s American legislation that your vote will go elsewhere. Your vote is the only thing politicians understand.
Hit ‘em where it hurts.