Kim Dotcom's Mega announcement: 5 interesting takeaways

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Kim Dotcom released more details on Thursday about Mega, a new online file storage service the embattled Megaupload founder has been hinting at for months. As expected, Mega will launch Jan. 20, 2013, exactly a year after Megaupload was shuttered and Dotcom along with other Megaupload executives were arrested as part of a massive copyright infringement case brought by the United States. Dotcom currently resides in New Zealand and is facing extradition to the U.S.

Mega plan

To avoid ending up in another copyright scandal with the new Mega, Dotcom plans to offer a service that encrypts all uploaded files before they get to Mega's servers. Only the user who uploaded the files will have the decryption key and be able to unscramble the data. So even if Mega had infringing material on its servers, the thinking goes, the company would not be responsible for infringement since it cannot tell what content is on its servers at any given time. The company has not yet said what kind of encryption the new site will be using.

It's not clear whether Dotcom's new business scheme will work, but the new Mega is certainly an interesting take on a mainstream cloud storage service. Mega's default encryption service may even woo over new users concerned about the security of their data hosted with other popular cloud storage providers. Many online services avoid using key-based encryption so that if a user loses access to his or her account, the company will still be able to recover the data.

If you are interested in the new Mega, you can find more information at (the GA top-level domain is for the central African nation of Gabon), which currently redirects to Dotcom's personal site. In the meantime, here are a few interesting tidbits gleaned from Dotcom's Mega introduction.

Browser-based uploads

Megaupload required a desktop client to upload files, but Mega will let you send files directly from the browser, similar to other online storage services such as Google Drive and SkyDrive.

Desktop mount

Mega will offer what the new company is calling a “live global cloud file system” that will let you share files and folders with other Mega users for online collaboration. You can also mount Mega as a virtual drive on your PC with its own drive letter.

Third-party clients

Mega will offer software developers an application programming interface (API) to create “crypto-enabled third-party client apps.” Many online services offer APIs allowing developers to create third-party apps and services including Twitter, Dropbox and Facebook.

Free (for as long as possible)

Mega is looking for investors to help grow the service, but also to “provide Mega free of charge for as long as possible.” It's not clear what that means. It could mean that Mega will, at launch, offer some form of unlimited storage for free. Or it could be that you will have to pay for the service after you reach a certain storage limit. Dropbox, Google Drive, and SkyDrive all offer online storage for free, and require you to pay a monthly or yearly fee to exceed that limit.

Does Mega have enough servers?

Mega's current landing page includes a plea to hosting providers to work with Mega. The new service is looking for servers with Linux-based systems, a minimum of 20 terabytes of storage, and 4GB RAM. It's not clear whether Mega is just trying to get onboard with as many providers in as many countries as it can, or if the company has yet to find enough server hosts willing to work with Dotcom's new company. Mega says it will not work with U.S.-based hosts and even says it is not a good idea for cloud-based services to have servers in the United States at all.

“It is not safe for cloud storage sites or any business allowing user-generated content to be hosted on servers in the United States or on domains like .com / .net,” the new Mega landing page says. “The US government is frequently seizing domains without offering service providers a hearing or due process.”

Digital rights advocates have accused U.S. authorities of unfairly seizing domains in the past. In September 2011, the Electronic Frontier Foundation said U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement was seizing domains “without meaningful court oversight” and causing “unacceptable collateral damage to free speech rights.”

Can Mega beat Megaupload?

At its peak, Megaupload was responsible for about 4 percent of all global Internet traffic and claimed 180 million registered users who used the service to store and share files online that were too large for e-mail. Megaupload also inspired numerous dependent services, most notably Megavideo, a popular video streaming service used for, among other things, publicly sharing copyrighted material.

A propensity among its users for sharing copyright infringing materials was part of the reason that U.S. authorities shut down Megaupload and its associated websites. Many online services, including YouTube and Dropbox, routinely remove infringing material from their servers after receiving requests from copyright owners, as did Megaupload.

Companies cannot be held liable for content uploaded by their users, even if that material infringes copyright, according to the safe harbor provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The difference with Megaupload, however, is that U.S. authorities say Dotcom and his associates willingly infringed on copyrights and profited from their acts.

Dotcom rejects the charges and says his company acted responsibly and went to great lengths to comply with takedown requests from copyright holders. Megaupload even gave entertainment companies direct access to Megaupload's servers, allowing copyright owners to delete infringing content themselves.

Whatever the outcome of the Megaupload case, if you plan on using Mega early in 2013, do yourself a favor and make sure you have local backups of any data stored with Mega. Because you never know when the copyright police might pay Dotcom another visit to have a chat about his new venture.

This story, "Kim Dotcom's Mega announcement: 5 interesting takeaways" was originally published by TechHive.

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