As more details come to light in the much-publicized Megaupload case, other file-sharing sites around the web are shutting their doors in fear that they could be targeted next by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Over the weekend, popular Megaupload alternatives FileSonic and FileServe completely turned off the ability to share files with other people. And another well-trafficked site, Uploaded.to, has blocked all U.S.-based IP addresses in fear of getting in serious trouble with the U.S. government.
Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom and several other Megaupload employees were arrested after being named in a 72-page indictment issued Thursday by the DOJ. The indictment alleges Megaupload is connected to a vast criminal enterprise and has caused more than $500 million in harm to copyright owners. If convicted, the company’s executives could serve many years in prison.
Even with trouble brewing, many sites that emulate Megaupload’s basic capabilities still work just fine. The CEO of popular file-sharing site MediaFire told me Sunday the company isn’t too concerned about government scrutiny because it is a legitimate business and doesn’t incentivize piracy like Megaupload did. That said, just because a company is confident about its legitimacy and employees don’t absurdly flaunt their wealth, doesn’t guarantee the government won’t investigate it.
“At this point, it’s hard to tell how far you can extrapolate, but I don’t think anyone should rest easy,” said Felix Wu, assistant law professor at Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University. “The Megaupload case will set precedent for these types of businesses and how liable they are.”
With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of 15 file-sharing sites still up and running that the government could potentially target next (in alphabetical order). Take a look:
Hong Kong-based BayFiles may be one of the file-sharing sites that attracts government scrutiny based on pedigree alone. The site was created by two of the founders of notorious torrent website The Pirate Bay, which said two weeks ago it would gradually stop serving torrent files because of sustained heat. BayFiles’ terms of service say content that “violates third-party copyrights” is not permitted to be uploaded, but the site still makes it effortless to share copyrighted material with others.
Cyprus-based DepositFiles has a bare bones design, but the site has pretty incredible sharing capabilities available for free. You can upload and share files up to 300MB in size without registration, and if you do register, you can upload up to 2GB files for free. The site also offers a Gold membership that allows you download with multiple connections, no waiting time for downloads and no advertising. Having people pay for higher quality download connections to large files is one of the things that got Megaupload in trouble.
3. Divx Stage
Divx Stage is one of the shadiest looking sites on this list, without question. The site blatantly advertises it will pay $10 for each 1000 full-movie streams for movies uploaded on the site. The site lets you upload up to 1GB files and features tons of TV shows and movies to watch for free. As of Monday, some shows on the first page of the site include the Mark Wahlberg film “Contraband” and the latest episode of ABC’s “Once Upon a Time.”
HulkShare is a strange beast of a file-sharing service that walks the line between promoting artists and enabling those to spread copyrighted music illegally. The site makes it extremely easy to upload song files and let other people listen to those files using its embeddable HulkShare Player. The site’s terms of service states copyrighted material is “strictly prohibited,” but in line with DMCA, artists must let the site know if a file is there without authorization to get it taken down.
Texas-based MediaFire lets you upload and easily share up to 200MB files without registration. While I believe MediaFire makes a convincing case that it is a legitimate company targeting professionals, the site has a huge amount of users who use the service for spreading copyrighted files, especially music. If you do a Google search for a song name, an artist name, and “MediaFire,” for example, it will likely bring you to a copy of the file which can easily be downloaded from a MediaFire page. CEO Derek Labian told us the fault belongs to Google for indexing shared MediaFire pages, and that Google should look into the problem.
It probably won’t help MegaShares that the word “Mega” is in its name, but it might have other things to worry about. The site lets users upload up to 10GB files and it pays users for the amount of downloads they bring to the site. Every “unique premium download with a minimum 5MB file size” earns you a “1 cache point” and when you reach certain numbers of points, you get cash.
NovaMov is quite similar to the Divx Stage site, and it’s just as shady. It rewards people for uploading movies up to 2GB in size and keeps a searchable directory of streaming movies infringing on copyrights. Users who upload files are paid $10 for each 1000 full video streams.
On the surface, OvFile is a lot less nefarious looking than Divx Stage and NovaMov. But because it allows you to easily upload up to 1GB movies and it’s plenty easy to find OvFile links through Google searches, it’s still just as capable of infringement as those other sites.
MediaFire CEO Labian told me PutLocker was one of the biggest sites on the web giving file-sharing sites a bad name. On the site, you can upload and share files up to 1GB for free and there’s no time limit on streaming shared videos. In a move likely inspired by Megaupload’s troubles, PutLocker will be ending its affiliate program, which gives users cash for streams, on Feb. 1. That’s at least a start, but the site will still almost certainly still be a place for sharing and watching copyrighted movies without authorization.
Switzerland-based RapidShare is one of the oldest file-sharing sites and currently has a global traffic rank of 211 on Alexa. The site has had numerous legal issues, but it still operates and serves millions of users daily who share files. RapidShare has no limits on upload or download sizes, but it does make you wait to download files if you are not a premium user. If you are premium user, you can download simultaneous large files with a waiting period.
SockShare is one of many sites where you can share streaming videos links. There is a 1GB cap on what unpaid users can upload and a 5GB cap on what premium users can upload. It is troublingly easy to Google a video name and “SockShare” to find a watchable stream on the site. However, just like PutLocker, SockShare will be ending its affiliate program, which gives users cash for video streams, on Feb 1.
On UploadHere, you can upload files up to 2GB but you must be a premium member on the site to download files over 1GB in size. That sort of business model clearly leads to the site profiting on the downloads of large, mostly copyrighted files. The site charges $8 a month for premium memberships and slightly less per month if you pay for multiple months in bulk.
UploadKing offers people almost exactly the same service as UploadHere, except it costs a bit less for premium downloading status. Free users are encouraged to upgrade to premium because it limits free users to download files under 1GB in size and does not let you download several files simultaneously.
Hong Kong-based WUpload will likely be one of the most-used file-sharing sites now that Megaupload has been taken down. The site allows users to upload and download files up to 2GB for free. It encourages users to sign up for premium accounts, which enable simulatenous large downloads, no delays on downloads, and downloads that do not time out.
Hong Kong-based ZShare is another bare bones sharing site, but unlike many others it is completely free and ad-supported. It allows uploads and downloads up to 100MB. ZShare does not allow users to search directly on the site for files but it is easy to Google a file name and “ZShare” to find shared pages.