Mega Up Yours

by justindburton on February 3, 2012

The last couple of weeks have witnessed the shuttering of many cyberlocker sites following the FBI takedown of megaupload. Wayne Marshall has a typically smart take on the matter over at thephoenix.

But this situation isn’t new, and it isn’t unique. It’s part of a pattern that is becoming more and more apparent: what people take to be public platforms turn out to be anything but, and our spaces for free speech are not necessarily so free.

As an ethnomusicologist who studies music’s role in networking communities, my research over the past decade has oscillated between stumbling through a carnival of collective creativity and sorting through a disturbed graveyard, where Megaupload now joins Napster, imeem, and JamGlue, to name a few. Putting aside for a second the thorny issue of copyright infringement, all of these sites served as vibrant cultural ecosystems for a staggering number of scenes and publics, each gathered around a particular genre, movement, or medium.

As with its predecessors, the sudden shuttering of Megaupload leaves a whole lot of holes in the e-ther. One random example to tick across my timeline: a friend lost the only existing copy of a personal video his father had recently stored there. No doubt thousands of other innocent files have been lost, but none appear likely to get their day in court.

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