Last week file-sharing site Megaupload found itself at the center of a huge controversy. After some of the world’s leading artists endorsed its service, Universal Music forced the song offline and was met with widespread accusations of censorship. Today TorrentFreak hands its Sunday guest slot to Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom, who tells us the row with Universal started much earlier than we thought….
Throughout the often hectic decade-long rise of mainstream file-sharing,many great characters have come to the forefront. There can be few digital news-consuming netizens to whom the founders of The Pirate Bay are complete strangers, and for those with a political slant, Pirate Party founder Rick Falkvinge is always captivating and thought provoking.
Today, TorrentFreak hands its now regular Sunday guest post slot to a man behind one of the Internet’s leading file-sharing sites. Indeed, one of the world’s biggest websites, period.
Breaking a silence of almost 10 years, Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom tells us about his colorful history, the spark that ignited the Mega Song controversy, and offers to buy us all dinner if we can find a Wikipedia page more unflattering than his. Events of the past week seemed a logical place to start…..
“It was exciting producing the Mega Song and putting the video together. I enjoyed working with everyone involved and I can tell you I am hooked,” Kim told TorrentFreak.
“The song, the lyrics and the video took a lot of love and time to make. I learned that I can be creative and be good at it and I am looking forward to doing more creative work in the future,” Kim added.
But when the video was taken down and we were denied something which was rightfully ours it was like someone knifed me in the heart. Firstly, though, let me give you a little bit more background on this story….
From Rogue To Vogue: Megaupload and Kim Dotcom
I am now living in New Zealand and heard local singer Gin Wigmore’s voice on the radio there. I thought she would be perfect for the Mega Song. Some members of the Black Eyed Peas band and I were chilling in the studio and we decided to reach out to Gin and make her an offer to sing the Mega Song. She agreed, came to the studio in Auckland, and nailed the song in 3 takes.
Gin’s voice is special, she could be the next Amy Winehouse. She seemed excited too. At least that’s what she texted me after the recording session. She was hopeful that we got something we could work with. The following day I received a call from her manager telling me we couldn’t use Gin’s voice. Then we received letters from UMG lawyers threatening to sue us if we used her voice.
The content of the letters was really nasty and personal stuff. They were bothering me about things that happened almost 18 years ago when I was a juvenile. At that time I was active in the hacker scene. I got busted in 1997 for computer hacking and received a probation sentence a few years later. I then became a successful entrepreneur in the new economy selling data security solutions to Fortune 1000 companies.
My mistake was that I embraced the media and gave them the stories they wanted. Let’s just put this into the category ‘young and stupid’. I was giving them a glimpse into my exclusive lifestyle. For this openness I was turned into the scapegoat when the German new economy bubble popped in 2000. I was convicted for insider trading (actually saving a company and over 120 jobs) and got a probation sentence because the judge and prosecutor offered a deal to my lawyers.
Their case was a joke. Since when is the person that saves a company, pays the company money in exchange for shares and buys additional shares (for the same price) on the open market an insider trader? I took the deal and moved on with my life instead of spending the next few years in court rooms defending my innocence. You can’t imagine the rape party the German media had with me.
The Wikipedia page about me is the best account of how long-lasting these effects still are today. Find me a Wikipedia profile of a person that is worse than mine and I will buy you dinner. For your information my criminal record has been cleared under Germany’s clean slate legislation. Officially I can say I am without convictions.
I made mistakes when I was young and I paid the price. Steve Jobs was a hacker and Martha Stuart is doing well after her insider trading case. I think over a decade after all of this happened it should NOT be the dominating topic. I am 37 years old now, I am married, I have three adorable children with two more on the way (twin girls – yeah) and I know that I am not a bad person. I have grown and I have learned. Making this into an issue about my past is unfair to everyone else working at Mega.
The media went as far as finding my father, drunk and living in some garden shed, who I haven’t seen since I was 8 years old. He is an alcoholic who used to beat my mother and myself into hospital many times. And the press got him to complain in interviews that he only sees me on TV with my big Mercedes and that I never visit him. I decided to leave Germany after that and to start over in Asia, in Hong Kong to be precise.
Hong Kong, what an awesome place to do business and to host my new phantom persona. I should write a book about doing business in Hong Kong, that’s how good it is. People there leave you alone and they are happy for your success. But that’s a different story.
Fact is, UMG knew that there was going to be a Mega Song well in advance and they didn’t like the idea at all.
Let me be clear, I don’t blame Gin for any of this. Her label messed this up. Instead of getting Gin in front of a global audience in collaboration with A-list artists, she had to be removed from the song. We actually hired Macy Gray as a replacement and she did an amazing job. There is a good chance that Gin will remain just known to New Zealanders, which would be sad because she has an awesome voice. Google for “Gin Wigmore” and hear for yourself. I wish her the best.
So here we are excited to launch our song and video. The people at UMG see it on YouTube and they don’t hesitate to take it down. They took the video down making a copyright claim and abusing the DMCA take down process that was provided to them by YouTube. In an act of comedy they are trying to tell the court that this wasn’t a DMCA take down at all. It was some kind of magical take down that is not covered by any law. Apparently YouTube has given UMG a license to kill. These are the same people who call Mega “rogue” and want more powers so they can take down entire websites. How stupid do they think everyone is? Wake up UMG, you will not get away with this nonsense.
When UMG took down our video the message for everyone to see was this: “The Mega Song: Taken down by UMG for copyright infringement”. They must have known it’s not Gin Wigmore in the song because in the description below the video it clearly stated that Macy Gray performed the vocals together with me and Printz Board, who is by the way the one of the masterminds behind some of Black Eyed Peas’ smash hits.
You would expect that a label representing an artist knows how that artist sounds, no? I think what really happened is that UMG realized how powerful our message was, how potent it would become, and how positively it would affect Mega’s image. From rogue to vogue. They decided to stop us at all costs, that becomes clear when you see the defense strategy of UMG in court. They have nothing and they don’t even care.
UMG knows that we are going to compete with them via our own music venture called Megabox.com, a site that will soon allow artists to sell their creations direct to consumers and allowing artists to keep 90% of earnings.
We have a solution called the Megakey that will allow artists to earn income from users who download music for free. Yes that’s right, we will pay artists even for free downloads. The Megakey business model has been tested with over a million users and it works. You can expect several Megabox announcements next year including exclusive deals with artists who are eager to depart from outdated business models.
You need to understand that some labels are run by arrogant and outdated dinosaurs who have been in business for 1000 years. These guys think an iPad is a facial treatment, the Internet is the devil, and wired phones are still hip. They are in denial about the new realities and opportunities. They don’t understand that the rip-off days are over. Artists are more educated than ever about how they are getting ripped off and how the big labels only look after themselves.
Dinosaur labels don’t have the answers to today’s new realities. UMG chose to willfully sabotage our campaign instead of analyzing the situation and seeing that the answers to all their problems are right in front of them.
In parallel UMG were calling up all the artists who endorsed us telling them that they are endorsing piracy. That they are working with a convicted felon. That they are losing money because of us. They are trying to force the artists to issue statements against their endorsements and agreements. They are burning their own talents. And I wouldn’t be surprised if some of them fold under this enormous pressure.
I have been on the phone with artists since the shit hit the fan last week and it’s a roller coaster. But we are prepared. I made sure that we are legally covered and that every artist signed a broad release agreement with Mega. Most of the artists we worked with have been in this business long enough to know what’s going on. They can’t wait to gain creative freedom and become the masters of their own careers.
When one of the top artists endorsing Mega received a letter from the CEO of the RIAA with some active download links on Megaupload containing that artist’s music it was shocking at first. But in the same letter it was described how those links were found with a Google search. Giving Mega a hard time when we don’t even provide a search feature on Megaupload? It’s bizarre. And at the same time you find the world’s largest piracy index on Google and most other search engines. But hey, these guys are not rogue. They are just rich.
Mega has nothing to fear. Our business is legitimate and protected by the DMCA and similar laws around the world. We work with the best lawyers and play by the rules. We take our legal obligations seriously. Mega’s war chest is full and we have strong supporters backing us. We have been online for 7 years and we are here to stay, so no need to worry about us.
But you should be worried that these guys might be successful with SOPA or PIPA or any other legal tool for Internet dictatorship.
They are buying politicians to go against the people, freedom and innovation. They want to censor the Internet and bring innovation to a standstill by having their rip-off monopoly protected by Washington. They want to intimidate innovators and take all of us back in time.
But I am telling you, these guys should soon be history, just like cheap oil, because they underestimate the power of the people, the power of the Internet and the power of innovation. To stop them you need to get moving. As you read this the payroll politicians of the MPAA and RIAA are trying to take control of your Internet.
Show your government what you think about all of this. Because if you don’t you will regret it.
I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Kim Dotcom (yes that’s my real name).