French website hits stumbling block indexing Mega files

Mega is keen to avoid copyright infringement accusations

A French website collecting links to content stored on the Mega file-sharing service is experiencing trouble in what may be an effort by Kim Dotcom's latest enterprise to avoid concerns over illegal file sharing.

The website, Mega-search.me, appeared shortly after the Jan. 20 launch of Mega, the successor to Megaupload. Earlier this week, it was possible to search for links to content, some of which appeared to be protected by copyright, that was stored on Mega.

But as of Thursday evening, Mega-search.me no longer had a functioning search feature. A pop-up message, in French, read: "Due to a script developed by Mega to delete all files indexed [by] Mega-search, the engine is temporarily unavailable. A solution to overcome this problem will be made shortly."

Mega-search.me, which has an active Twitter account, could not be reached for comment. On Twitter, the site alleged Mega had deleted all of the links that it had indexed without checking the content.

Mega officials could not be immediately reached for comment. Mega lawyer Ira P. Rothken said on Wednesday the site has fielded at least 150 notices that it is hosting copyrighted files and in many cases removed the offending content the same day.

So far, Mega has been very prompt in responding to copyright infringement notices, said Hervé Lemaire, founder of LeakID, a Paris-based company that monitors the Internet for illegally shared content for clients including Microsoft.

LeakID, founded in 2007, develops software that scans the Internet for links to content owned by its clients. The number of links to potential copyright-infringing material LeakID has found on Mega pales in comparison to that of other so-called "cyberlocker" file-storage services, he said. Users often upload content to the services and then share the links with third-party websites such as Mega-search.me.

As of Wednesday, LeakID had flagged around 5,600 suspicious links hosted on Mega, far fewer than on services such as Rapidgator, RapidShare, RyuShare, Upload and Extabit. LeakID had flagged hundreds of thousands of links for content on those services, Lemaire said.

Lemaire was aware of Mega-search.me. "We must take care of this," he said.

Mega uses JavaScript code to encrypt people's content within the Web browser before it is uploaded, so it cannot identify the content when it is stored. It also warns people not to use the service to store copyright-protected content.

Still, Mega is riding a fine line that could attract the attention of lawmakers, said Paul Kocher, president and chief scientist of Cryptography Research in San Francisco.

"If Mega gains traction and doesn't get shut down for other reasons, they'll likely prompt changes to the laws," Kocher said. "Mega is essentially treating the legal system as if it's a computer system whose bugs that can be exploited, but Congress and the courts care about consequences and intentions and will act if there really are loopholes.

"In other words, if the existing laws can't stop Mega from making money by inducing wide-scale piracy, the likely outcome will be new restrictions on everybody," Kocher said.

Dotcom, along with six Megaupload colleagues and two companies, were indicted by a U.S. federal grand jury in January 2012 on charges of criminal copyright infringement. U.S. prosecutors, who are pursuing extradition of Dotcom and others, allege Megaupload netted US$175 million in advertising and subscription revenue on the back of a brisk trade in content protected by copyright.

Send news tips and comments to jeremy_kirk@idg.com. Follow me on Twitter: @jeremy_kirk

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Tags internetInternet-based applications and servicesmegauploadMegaLeakID

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Jeremy Kirk

IDG News Service
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