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Megaupload吃官司,版权保护现曙光

Roger Parloff 2012年07月17日

金姆•多特康姆打造的网络储物柜生意催生了数量惊人的网络侵权行为,规模之大,远非普通人所能想象。但这门生意可能并没有违法。我们怎么走到这步田地?解决之道何在?

    弗吉尼亚州哈里斯堡的一座温控仓库里,1,103台服务器堆放在120个堆栈上,等待联邦法院的裁决,接受最后的处置。这些服务器每台都装有24块硬盘。全部加起来,它们总共可以存储25拍字节(2500万千兆)的信息。这么大的空间足以装下50个美国国会图书馆(Libraries of Congress)的藏书,总长度可达13.3年的高清电视视频,或者用这些硬件的拥有方、卡帕西亚数据托管公司(Carpathia Hosting)的话来说:“大概相当于人类有记载的历史以来全部文字、所有书面著作总和的一半。”

    几年来,卡帕西亚公司一直将这些服务器出租给一家名为“百万上传”(Megaupload,美国著名在线网络硬盘服务商——译注)的公司。这家公司在荷兰和法国还拥有另外700多台服务器。据美国政府称,曾有一度,“百万上传”公司一家就占据了全球互联网流量的4%,在访问量最大的网站中排名第13位,日访问量比网飞公司(Netflix)、美国在线公司(AOL)和《纽约时报》(New York Times)网站都要大。

    直到最近,“百万上传”还是最富吸引力的生意之一,也就是是人们常说的“网络储物柜”。实际上,它是最新一代模仿纳普斯特公司(Napster)的产物。纳普斯特是文件分享服务的先驱,创办于1999年,后来在2001年被法院勒令关停。今年1月,弗吉尼亚州亚历山大市的一支联邦大陪审团对“百万上传”及其7名高管提出了指控。他们被控合谋进行敲诈勒索,主要是协助并唆使侵犯版权的犯罪行为。美国政府方面裁定,以金姆•多特康姆,又名金姆•施密茨,又名金姆•提姆•吉姆•韦斯特为首的被告一行从一项业务中非法获利1.75亿美元。这一业务主要是为非法传播发行至少价值5亿美元的各类受到版权保护的电影、音乐、电视节目、书籍、照片、视频游戏和软件提供便利条件。

    各类“网络储物柜”公司——其他诸如Rapidshare和Hotfile——赚钱的方式主要是通过出售广告、提供高端订阅服务。享有订阅服务的用户比免费用户能更快地下载文件及各种流媒体。

    操作方式如下:用户将文件上传到“储物柜”,尽管这些储物柜往往没有上锁(“上传”意味着,用户从自己的电脑中复制一份文件,传到储物柜公司的网站上,文件再被存到公司的某个服务器上)。大多数上传者再把文件名和其在网站上的URL发布在公共博客或“链接农场”里,这样世界上任何人只要通过搜索引擎找到这个链接,就能下载文件或流媒体内容。目前,“百万上传”的对手Hotfile正深陷一桩尚待裁决的民事诉讼。该案中,一位电影业统计学家通过调查发现,此类服务所提供的下载中有90%都涉及侵权。这一调查结论已获得众多法庭认可。

    在一份只需点击就能确认、犹如遮羞布的网上协议中,这些网络存储服务公司要求用户同意不可上传侵权材料。但是,这类公司多数似乎恰恰在鼓励用户这么干。直至受到版权指控前,很多公司甚至还在给用户提供现金奖励。条件是:按其他用户下载某位用户上传文件的次数来计酬,比如说,每下载1,000次,就发给该用户15美元或25美元。这类获酬用户被称为“附属会员”(affiliate)。政府称,有一位“百万上传”的附属会员在6年里上传了16,950份文件,产生了超过3,400万的页面浏览量。(自从“百万上传”遭起诉后,许多同类公司已经改变了这种做法。)

    译者:清远

    In a climate-controlled warehouse in Harrisonburg, Va., 1,103 computer servers, each equipped with 24 hard drives, are piled in 120 stacks awaiting a federal judge's decision about what to do with them. Together, they store more than 25 petabytes (25 million gigabytes) of information. That's enough space to store 50 Libraries of Congress, 13.3 years of HDTV video, or "approximately half of all the entire written works of mankind, from the beginning of recorded history, in all languages," according to Carpathia Hosting, the company that owns the hardware.

    For several years Carpathia leased the servers to a company called Megaupload, which deployed another 700 or so servers in the Netherlands and France. At one time Megaupload alone accounted for 4% of the globe's entire Internet traffic and was the 13th-most-visited site on the web, according to the government, with more daily visitors than Netflix (NFLX), AOL (AOL), or the New York Times.

    Until recently Megaupload was one of a number of lucrative, businesses known as cyberlockers, which are the latest generation of operations created in the image of the original Napster -- the pioneering file-sharing service that launched in 1999 and was shut down by court order in 2001. In January an Alexandria, Va., federal grand jury charged Megaupload and seven top officials with a racketeering conspiracy focused on aiding and abetting criminal copyright infringement. The government alleges that the defendants, led by Kim Dotcom, a.k.a. Kim Schmitz, a.k.a. Kim Tim Jim Vestor, made $175 million from a business built on facilitating the illegal distribution of at least $500 million worth of copyrighted movies, music, television shows, books, images, videogames, and software.*

    Cyberlockers -- others include Rapidshare and Hotfile -- make money by selling both advertisements and premium subscriptions. The subscriptions enable users to download or stream files more quickly than free users can.

    They work like this: Users upload files to "lockers," though the lockers typically have no locks. ("Uploading" means copying a file from the user's own computer onto the cyberlocker company's website, where the file is stored on one of the company's servers.) Most uploaders then publish the name of the file and its locker URL on public blogs or "link farms," from which anyone in the world can download or stream the materials stored there, using a search engine to find the link. In pending civil litigation against Megaupload's rival Hotfile, a movie industry statistician whose surveys have been accepted by many courts found that more than 90% of that service's downloads were infringing.

    In a click-through agreement that appears to serve as a fig leaf, cyberlockers require their users to agree not to upload infringing materials. Nevertheless, most cyberlockers seem to encourage users to do just that. Until they started getting hit with civil copyright suits, many cyberlockers offered cash bounties to users based on, for instance, the number of times other people downloaded whatever the users uploaded -- $15 to $25, say, per every 1,000 downloads. Such paid users were called "affiliates." One Megaupload affiliate uploaded 16,950 files to the site over six years, the government says, generating more than 34 million page views. (Since the Megaupload indictment, many cyberlockers have altered their practices.)

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