Founded in 2013, Mega quickly grew to become one of the world’s dominant file-hosting and sharing platforms.
Launched by Kim Dotcom, who later appeared to distance himself from the site, Mega was promoted as a privacy solution, a place where files could be kept safe from prying eyes. However, in common with file-hosting sites of all kinds, some people use it to store copyrighted content, with large volumes being offered publicly.
This has created friction between Mega and some rightsholders, despite the former insisting that it does all it can within the law to respond to claims. Nevertheless, some rightsholders prefer the strong-arm approach.
During yesterday, reports from Brazil indicated that Mega had become inaccessible via some ISPs. The problem was spotted at Mega too, which tweeted to one ISP, Vivo, to sort out the issue.
“Hello @vivobr,” Mega wrote in Portuguese. “We are receiving reports from our users that Vivo is blocking https://mega.nz through a DNS block. Please rectify this as soon as possible! You are interfering with your customers’ Internet.”
Soon after, however, it became clear that Vivo and indeed additional ISPs weren’t in a position to do anything about the problem.
According to legal resource JusBrasil, there was a court process on September 12, 2019, which ordered four Internet service providers – Claro Brasil, Vivo-Telefonica, Oi and Algar Telecom – to prevent their subscribers from accessing 10 domains, including Mega.nz.
The most recognizable of the other nine domains is oload.tv, which appears to be a domain operated by file-hosting giant Openload. Last December, Vivo told a local publication that it had been forced to block Openload in Brazil following an earlier court decision but declined to provide additional details.
The rest of the list consists of Alfastream.cc, which doesn’t present itself as a regular hosting service but has URLs listed online which indicate content is available on the platform. Similarly, Akugyash.com only displays a brief message but elsewhere on the web is described as a video balancer.
Verystream.net is helpful in that it describes its function on its homepage as the CDN (Content Delivery Network) used by file-hosting site Verystream.com. Fembed.net and Ruvid.nl both point to the same file-hosting service with the former’s branding, with ClipWatching.com and VideoShare.club acting as file-storage sites.
The final and most strange domain on the list is centrelinguistique.com, which appears to be a French language school, which doesn’t fit the file-storage theme of the other domains in any way.
According to Brazil’s Technoblog, the details of the blocking case are being kept secret, which does nothing to unravel the language school mystery. However, it does claim to have identified ABTA – the Brazilian Association of Subscription Television – as the plaintiff in the matter.
Documents that are publicly available suggest that this is probably an expansion of an earlier ruling, with a note that the plaintiff requested an “extension” of an earlier action due to the “distributor and facilitator websites” adopting “new techniques to circumvent the blockages made by the providers.”
In any event, the operators of Mega feel that its domain has been blocked inappropriately.
“With respect to the block in Brazil, we respectfully believe that the order is wrong and that the Court has been misled,” the company wrote in Portuguese this morning.
“MEGA has excellent compliance. We are working on a solution. We apologize for the inconvenience and appreciate your patience!”
Whether that solution is legal or technical in nature isn’t yet clear. However, there are reports that the targeted ISPs are employing different blocking measures, with some targeting IP addresses (which can be bypassed using a VPN) and others meddling with DNS (which can be circumvented by using an alternative, such as OpenDNS).
There’s no mention of the action on the website of the Brazilian Association of Subscription Television but they do have a selection of ominous anti-piracy videos, one of which is embedded below.