You may have heard by now that Internet superstar and enemy of the U.S. entertainment industry Kim Dotcom announced today the URL for his forthcoming relaunch of Megaupload. The website will be, simply, Me.ga. Clever – but not just clever. This is a shrewd move by Dotcom, made in an attempt to avoid a repeat of Megaupload’s doomed fate.
Me.ga uses the .ga country code top-level domain (ccTLD), which is intended for domains registered in the small, central African state of Gabon. The domain registrar for all .ga ccTLDs is Gabon Telecom, which is a key detail in all this.
All .com, .net, .cc, .tv, .name, and .org domains are issued through a company called Verisign (you’ve probably heard of them), which is based in the United States. And because Verisign is based in the U.S., the federal government claims that it has the right to seize any domain that ends in any of the TLDs listed above – a practice that has increased significantly over the past couple of years. It was because of the U.S. government’s asserted jurisdiction over Verisign that the FBI was able to seize Megaupload.com. On top of that, Dotcom foolishly hosted Megaupload content with Carpathia Hosting, a Virgina-based hosting company. This too gave the U.S. government claim to Megaupload. For Me.ga, however, Dotcom says he will not use any hosting companies based in the U.S.
From Dotcom’s placeholder site for Me.ga: “Unfortunately we can’t work with hosting companies based in the United States. Safe harbour for service providers via the Digital Millenium [sic] Copyright Act has been undermined by the Department of Justice with its novel criminal prosecution of Megaupload. It is not safe for cloud storage sites or any business allowing user generated content to be hosted on servers in the United States or on domains like .com / .net. The US government is frequently seizing domains without offering service providers a hearing or due process.”
From the way it looks now, Me.ga will be accessible to users in the U.S., but will not have any business relationship with companies based in the U.S., putting it much further out of reach from the hands of American law enforcement.
This is precisely the loophole that the ill-fated Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) was trying to close. If you’ll remember, SOPA specifically targeted “foreign rogue websites” — not U.S.-based websites — by requiring search engines to remove them from their index, and Internet service providers to block access. BitTorrent king The Pirate Bay is a prime example of a “foreign rogue website,” and Me.ga would, had SOPA passed, fall into this category as well.
Me.ga is currently scheduled to relaunch on January 20, 2013, one year after the FBI shut down Megaupload. Whether or not the U.S. government will find another way to kill off Me.ga, or to block access for U.S. Web users, remains to be seen.