Back in January, Kim Dotcom's leading file-sharing site Megaupload was shut down in an FBI-led conspiracy case complete with intrigue and an internationally orchestrated raid in New Zealand. The wildly popular site was torn down for abetting a vast web of piracy that pulled in $175 million from unlawful activities.
In the lead up to the crackdown, Kim Dotcom was reportedly at work on a more legally secure version of the site called Megabox, which never quite materialized amid the legal showdown and its aftermath. Despite facing a U.S. extradition hearing in March 2013, however, Reuters reports
that Dotcom will launch the successor to Megaupload, called Mega, in January 2013, with key changes to its architecture and a crucial shift of liability to its users.
Much of the U.S. case against Megaupload stemmed from the site using hosting companies based in the United States. Mega will avoid any ties to U.S. hosters, domains, and backbone providers in order to stave off prosecution this time around.
The bigger transformation will be Mega's construction as a cloud-based online storage site, giving users direct control and responsibility for personal files stored on the site. Users will now have direct access to their own files, while Mega operators will remain hands-off and immune to the consequences of illegally posted content.
Additionally, in exchange for assurance that Mega will not be held responsible for unlawful content, direct access will be granted to content owners to delete any infringing material.
Based on Mega's promotional preview, Dotcom is confident that the site will thrive and steer clear of prosecution from relentless U.S. authorities, as well as the grounds for such prosecution, by passing liability to the user. That will require a user base informed and smart enough not to be shocked when treating the site like Megaupload lands them personally before a judge.
Simply taking the United States out of the equation from the legal standpoint of Megaupload's demise may not shield the site from having to contend with increasing international cooperation. On the other hand, New Zealand's later determination that the raid, seizure, and state espionage of Dotcom were all unlawful could slow down the speed of future prosecution, in the event that new privileges for content owners prove insufficient to curb piracy.
What is certain is that, somehow, Kim Dotcom's splashy notoriety has a way of making dry, coin-driven legal matters pretty compelling.