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Mega hands-on: Come for the 50 GB of free storage, stay for the copyright infringement

Mega cloud storage serviceIt’s finally, officially, with a big middle finger in the face of the U.S. government, here: Kim Dotcom’s Mega, the stronger, better, faster, descendant of Megaupload, launched to the public this weekend, drawing in more than a million users in the first 24 hours. But is it worth the effort to be a Mega first-adopter? Let’s take a look at how the Dropbox-esque clone of a file storage (and sharing) platform functions, and find out.

Getting started

If nothing else, Mega will draw you in with the 50 GB of free storage, and the ability to encrypt your files. Both features are a rarity in this day and age, so much so that Kim Dotcom’s service looks like it could be too good to be true – and that might be the case.

To get started, you’re required to sign up with an email address, name, and password. The process, quick and painless, is followed by an email authentication. The following step automatically generates a “2048-bit public/private key pair” and takes a few minutes to work, so you’ll have to be patient.

Once you’re past the sign-up phase, you arrive at the unremarkable Mega dashboard, from which you’ll do all your file uploading. Mega does not provide any pointers on how to use the site, so don’t bother going to look for a walk-through. But that doesn’t matter – Mega is simple enough to navigate that you won’t find any hidden surprises. And if you’ve used any other cloud storage service in the past, the whole thing is basically a no-brainer. 

Cloud Drive

Cloud Drive, the first navigable tab and at the top of a four-tabbed list on the left-hand panel, is where you’ll find all your stored files and folders. If you’ve been a Dropbox user, Mega’s interface will be relatively familiar to you. I’ve uploaded some files, which you can see in the screenshot above. The upload speed varies depending on the document type and your Internet connection. Microsoft Word files typically took just one or two seconds. But be careful with bigger files, or batch uploads. Should you choose to upload gigabytes worth of documents, you’ll end up running uploads in the background for hours. Even the few 2-3 MB image files we tried to upload took ages. Some of them failed to upload at all, causing us to right-click on the file name and cancel the upload.

File Sharing

File sharing is a critical feature for Mega, and one that’s bound to help speed up adoption among file-sharers who haven’t had anywhere to go post-Megaupload. Before we dig into Mega’s file sharing capabilities, we have to warn you: If you plan to use Mega for illegally sharing copyrighted works, understand that the site’s Terms of Service are carefully crafted to redirect the blame on its users if authorities decide to come down on Mega – which, given founder Kim Dotcom’s history with the law, is all but inevitable.

With that disclaimer out of the way, here’s how file sharing works on Mega. There’s two ways to share a file: via email, or through a link. Manually adding a user by entering their email address allows the third-party access to entire files. Right-clicking on a document gives you a “Get Link” option, which generates a unique URL to the file in question. Clicking the URL opens up a download page to the document. Permission settings can be set to read-only, read & write, and full access.

The downside to file sharing with Mega is that your files can be discovered by strangers fairly easily. Think of it like MediaFire – anyone can gain access to your files should they happen to type in the correct URL.

mega encryption pic

Is it safe?

Despite its focus on security and privacy, Mega contains a number of inadequacies in these areas. One of the culprits that lends to Mega’s vulnerability is called “symmetric encryption.” One key, which enables the encryption and decryption of data, is assigned to one account. And because the key is stored on Mega’s servers, if you lose the password, say goodbye to your files – the site doesn’t offer a password recovery option.

The primary gripe with Mega’s security has to be its 2048-bit RSA key, which is assigned in pairs after signing up: one “public” key, one “private” key. Users can encrypt their files with either the public key or the private key. If the public key is used, the person receiving the file must have the public key to access it. If the private key is used, those accessing the files must have the public key. (The latter option is used in cases where the file recipient wants to ensure the identity of the file sender). Ideally, the RSA key should be affected by entropy (which, in computer lingo, roughly translates to “randomness”) as the keys are being generated. Typing a word on your keyboard, or moving our mouse are external influences that determine your key, making it harder for a third-party to decipher. Mega does collect entropy when creating the RSA keys. But, as Ars Technica notes, its method for doing so leaves a greater possibility that the RSA keys could be cracked.

Other (non-existent) features

We’ve tried to play around with the trash can, contacts list, and inbox, but the latter two features have not yet been turned on. I was able to add a friend to my contact list, but wasn’t able to chat or interact in any way. (We reached out to Dotcom to give us an idea about these additional features. We have not heard back from him, but we’ll update this article should he respond.) In addition to user-to-user instant messaging, Mega plans to add tweaks to its upload interface (like the ability to reorder the file upload list), Google Docs-like word processing and calendar tools, and greater security features.

The down low

Once pirates realize Mega’s capabilities, it’s bound to transform into another MediaFire where copyrighted material will be available by the virtual truck loads. And with the volume of content that will be shared on the site, its going to be yet another cat-and-mouse game for rights holders. As for users, the 50 GB is an attractive proposition, but be certain that you’re comfortable with Mega’s rules and the inherent openness of the platform. And remember: Mega is still in beta, so it could be a while before we see some of the polish and new features that the company has promised.

In short, Mega is off to a good first start, and may very well become the file-sharing powerhouse that Megaupload once was. For now, however, the only real reason to jump on the Mega bandwagon is the 50 GB of free storage. And really, what other reasons do you need?

Editors' Recommendations

Francis Bea
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Francis got his first taste of the tech industry in a failed attempt at a startup during his time as a student at the…
Terms & Conditions: What’s in your Mega account? Don’t ask, don’t tell
Terms and Conditions MEGA

What are you really agreeing to when you click that fateful “agree” button? Terms & Conditions cuts out the legal lingo to spell it out in plain English.
Since its launch last weekend, the blistering-hot new cloud storage and file-sharing service Mega has already rocketed into the top 150 websites on the Web. With more than 1 million early adopters, the service promises users 50GB of free storage space – a generous offer – as well as file encryption to keep the contents private. Premium users can pay $10, $20, or $30 per month for additional storage and bandwidth. And users are able to share their files with other users via email or auto-generated links – all of which makes Mega sound much like any other cloud storage service, like Dropbox or SugarSync.
But, of course, Mega is not just any other cloud locker. It's the latest brainchild of Internet anti-hero Kim Dotcom, who is currently awaiting possible extradition to the U.S. for criminal copyright charges stemming from his last cloud locker service, Megaupload. So whether Mega and Dotcom can survive the flying hammers of Hollywood and the U.S. Justice Department remains to be seen. What we can do is check out Mega's Terms of Service to see whether Mega a safe bet.
Terms of Service
Overall, Mega's Terms have both strengths and weaknesses. The text is written in plain English, so there's not too much to dissect. But it's also very long, which likely means nobody's going to take the time to read it and understand what's in it. Fortunately, that's what T&C is for. Here are the key bits of Mega's Terms.
Your data: Responsibilities and caveats
Play it safe
Mega makes it very clear that you and you alone are responsible for keeping your data and your encryption keys safe. If you don't, that's your problem. That means not saving your encryption keys on your computer or – gasp! – emailing them to yourself. Why? Because that's a great way to get hacked. Furthermore, Mega suggests you "to use robust anti-virus and firewall protection" to better protect yourself and your data.
Also, make sure you don't lose your Mega password – there is no password reset. If you forget it, or lose it, that's also your problem. And you can kiss your files stored there goodbye. Unless, of course, you...
Copy that
Make sure you have at least one copy of the files you upload to Mega. This is vitally important because, as Mega states, the company does "not make any guarantees that there will be no loss of data or the services will be bug free." It's also important because there's a greater likelihood that Mega's servers will somehow end up in the hands of law enforcement than with other cloud storage services, which means you might not have access to the files you upload.
To each his own
Despite the whole "delete the duplicate" thing, Mega makes it clear that the files you upload to the service are owned by you. By uploading, you only give Mega the right to use the files to provide the services that make up Mega.
Double time
One of the reasons Mega is able to offer all users 50GB of free storage is that it does not actually store every individual file uploaded to its servers. Instead, the Mega system scans uploaded files, and if it finds one that is identical to a file that's already been uploaded, it will delete the copy. That means, essentially, that multiple users are sharing files. Mega makes this clear in the Terms by saying, "Our service may automatically delete a piece of data you upload or give someone else access to where it determines that that data is an exact duplicate of original data already on our service."
Pay up
If you're a free users and never plan to pay for the service, feel free to skip this part. If not, read on…
When you sign up for a Premium account, you have to pay the amount you owe right away. If you fail to make a monthly payment, Mega reserves the right to charge you 10 percent interest on your payment, and could slap you with covering the cost of legal fees if the company is forced to track you down to get its money. Your Mega account could also be automatically deleted.
Encrypt yo' neck
Encryption is the main feature that sets Mega apart from other cloud storage services (even if it currently leaves something to be desired). Your account is encrypted, and the files you share can also be encrypted (but don't have to be). Part of this means that even Mega can't see what files you've uploaded.
This is important for two reasons, and both of them have to do with copyright infringement. First, because Mega cannot know what you've uploaded, the company is protected from law enforcement accusations that it is "knowingly" aiding copyright infringement. Second, Mega's self-imposed ignorance means there are fewer instances in which the company would be forced to rat out your movie-sharing pastime to the fuzz.
That said, Mega clearly states – as it must – that it is against illegal file sharing of any kind, including the copyright infringement kind. Also, if you decide to share copyright-protected files that you don't own on a large scale, and a copyright holder issues Mega a takedown notice, the company will have to remove your file. There is a chance that it could also be forced to hand over your personal details to law enforcement, which the company clearly sates that it will do. So share that copy of The Life of Pi at your own risk.
Take it or leave it
Mega is technically still in beta, which means the company is constantly making tweaks, changes, and improvements. Because of this, Mega's Terms repeatedly state that the service may have bugs, and could even become completely unavailable. If this happens, you don't have the legal right to sue Mega.
Furthermore - and I'm including this mainly because it's funny - Mega states that it "will not be liable by reason of any failure or delay in the performance of our obligations because of events beyond our reasonable control, which may include, without limitation, denial-of-service attacks, strikes, shortages, riots, insurrection, fires, flood, storm, explosions, acts of God, war, terrorism, governmental action, labour conditions, earthquakes, material shortages, extraordinary internet congestion or extraordinary connectivity issues or failure of a third party host."
That is definitely the first time I've seen "riots" and "acts of God" in a Terms of Service document.
Damn you, auto-delete
The most disappointing part of Mega's terms is what I call the "auto-delete" provision, which states that Mega may "terminate or suspend our services or any part of our services, for all users or for groups of users, at any time and for any reason or no reason."
This provision is found in a disturbing number of Terms, so it shouldn't be a surprise. But there you have it: Your Mega account could be deleted at any time, and there's nothing you can do about it.
Wasn't me
The rest of Mega's Terms basically say "if something goes wrong, that's just too bad." And you can't sue Mega if anything goes awry.
So that's about sums it up: Mega has some cool features, but the service if far from perfect. So use it at your own risk.

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What to expect from Kim Dotcom’s Mega, launching tomorrow
mega landing page

Despite the tumultuous legal headache that the government is imposing following MegaUpload’s shut down, Kim Dotcom hasn’t hidden from public eye. We know that he’s been keeping himself busy with MegaBox, the music streaming site which many are anticipating. Then there’s Mega, a file storage platform that resembles the damned file sharing platform MegaUpload and Dotcom's second chance at resurrecting a file hosting site in the former site's likeness. 
Given that anything to do with Kim Dotcom has controversy written all over it, a painless launch would be a miracle. Even before Mega’s launch, Dotcom's domain was shut down by the government of Gabon. Lately he's been running over hurdles when MediaWorks, a media company out in New Zealand responsible for placing Mega’s radio spots on its stations, was pressured to pull the plug on the ad spots. Regardless, Mega is definitely a “go.” Dotcom tweeted, “24 hours until #Mega! One more day! Are you ready?”
Dotcom called for API developers back in August to tinker around with an early-stage Mega and took to Twitter to proclaim “one-click-encryption of ALL your data transfers, on the fly, easy to use, free of charge.” And he’s been brazen about curtailing any chances and reasons that the FBI could come after him. This time around, the servers are hosted outside of the United States, and Mega uses its users' browsers instead of software, which means that users will be liable for their own actions instead of Mega being faulted. If you recall, to use MegaUpload you had to install MegaManager on all of your devices.

Based on early looks at the platform, which TechCrunch (who took the screen shot above) and other outlets have been granted, the platform and user experience appears to be straight forward and familiar for those who use Dropbox, Box, or even Drive. 
The Contacts feature isn't functional yet, but we can get a good sense of the file sharing capabilities of the platform. You didn’t think Dotcom was leaving his file-sharing roots behind did you? What we can deduce is that you’ll be able to keep in touch with users through an in-app messaging platform, and we get the sense that file-sharing between contacts will be an included service. We’ll just have to wait until tomorrow for the grand debut to dig deeper into Mega’s features.
Mega won’t be just a file storage and sharing utility. Through its investor, Instra, which is a domain registry site, domain hosting, and domain names are features that will be included in the Mega package. And you can test out Mega with 50 GB of free storage – the only storage service that comes close to that is MediaFire, with its own free 50 GB offer. If you’re looking for an upgrade, there are three tiers to choose from. The first is 500 GB of storage and 1TB of bandwidth for € 9.99 ($13.29), and the second step up offer 2TB of storage for 4 TB bandwidth for € 19.99 ($26.59). What Mega calls Pro III is a € 29.99 ($39.90) monthly package for 4 TB and 8 TB of bandwidth.
Until Mega launches to the world tomorrow, this first look is just a snippet of what you should be expecting.

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Megaupload says U.S. government lied to get search warrant
Megaupload court case

The U.S. government lied to gain access to Virginia-based computer servers used by, the website claimed in a motion submitted to a federal court on Wednesday. The accusation is only the latest in a line of alleged missteps by law enforcement in the case against Megaupload, which is considered to be the largest copyright-infringement case in U.S. history.
A recently unsealed search warrant shows that the U.S. Department of Justice asked Megaupload in June 2010 to retain certain files – 39 copies of copyrighted motion pictures – on its servers, which were housed by hosting company Carpathia, for an investigation. By November 2011, 36 of those files were still on Megaupload's servers, according to the DOJ. The government later seized the servers from Carpathia.
What the DOJ did not tell Megaupload, according to the website's court filing, is that the investigation was actually against Megaupload, itself, and that the government then used Megaupload's retention of those files as the primary proof that the company was knowingly harboring copyrighted content illegally.
From the brief (PDF): 

By all indications, the Government tapped Carpathia to convey the June 24, 2010 warrant to Megaupload, thereby planting what the Government would later claim, for purposes of this case, amounted to criminal knowledge that Megaupload was hosting infringing files, while simultaneously lulling Megaupload into thinking it was not a target of its ongoing investigation (which the Government dubbed its 'Mega Conspiracy' investigation) – and, what is worse, affirmatively leading Megaupload to understand from the warrant’s sealing order and Carpathia’s representations that Megaupload should take no action with respect to the infringing files lest it tip off the ostensible targets. In sum, the Government came to paint as criminal the very course of conduct by Megaupload that the Government had induced in requesting good-faith cooperation with an investigation that was to remain secret. Most incredibly of all, however, the Government then came before this Court, ex parte, with a selective, distorted account whereby the Government omitted mention of facts – well known to the Government – indicating that Megaupload was of an innocent state of mind in cooperating with what it was told was an ongoing, secret investigation of the infringing files at issue.

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