Is This the End of Megaupload and File-Sharing?

As previously reported, on Thursday file-sharing giant Megaupload was shut down by the federal government, with the assist going to record and film company execs. The site was indicted for piracy, accused of, “costing copyright holders more than $500 million in lost revenue from pirated films and other content.” While this is upsetting, it’s not surprising. In fact, I’m surprised that it took the government so long to do it.

Megaupload, like it’s predecessors, is a victim of it’s own popularity. Before becoming one of the largest file-sharing companies in the world with over 150 million registered users, it was just another place for internet users to share data with friends. But when the site grew and kept growing – possibly making millions charging it’s members for server space – it became a problem. Especially when the company had the audacity to fight back against one of the largest record companies in the world, Universal Music Group. All of those things combined made it a liability to the music and film industry and put a huge target on the company’s back. But it’s not the first time this has happen.


In the beginning there was Napster, and it was good.  In 1999, co-created by Shawn Fanning, John Fanning and Sean Parker, Napster became the pioneer of peer-to-peer file sharing, allowing users across the globe to share and discover new music with their friends, family and complete strangers despite the distance. The the little known site became one of the most popular websites of it’s time, boasting millions of visitors a day, and with those type of numbers just a matter of time before it came under the music industry’s radar.

Soon Napster found itself buried in copyright infringement lawsuits, eventually leading to the site being shut down and bankruptcy followed. Napster re-branded itself and relaunched using a music industry friendly formula (the record companies received a cut), and after many changes, in 2011 the site merged with Rhapsody, but it was never the same.


Limewire was another popular file-sharing site launched in 2000. The site, like Napster, offered its users a way to download and upload files using their free software. With Limewire you had the capability of sharing and uploading music, software and movies.

Over the years the company made changes to its software and service in hopes of avoiding Napster’s fate, but in 2010 it was sued by Arista Records LLC for copyright infringement, among other things. Limewire lost the lawsuit and later that year a US federal court judge issued an injunction forcing LimeWire to block the software’s ability to search, download, upload and trade files. Limewire became yet another victim of it’s own popularity.

All the Others

File-sharing is immensely popular, and although Napster and Limewire met with unfavorable circumstances changing them forever, there are thousands of other small file-sharing sites still around. New ones pop up everyday, but for every new one that surfaces, the US government shuts down ten. They do this not because they don’t have anything better to do, but because the film and music industries bring in billions and billions of dollars and that that’s more than enough incentive for the government to act like bounty hunters on behalf of record and film companies.

Essentially Megauploads met with the same fate as the aforementioned companies because it made the exact same mistakes. Despite it’s best efforts, at this time there isn’t a good mainstream way to file-share (unless everyone gets their cut), and it’s only going to get worse with bills like PIPA and SOPA staring us in the face. But who knows, maybe like the previous companies it to will survive the indictments (and it’s executives spending time in Club Fed), and maybe, like Napster, it will find a way to rebuild and re-brand. But like Napster it will never be the same.