There is an old saying that says something like “it is more difficult to restore a dissatisfied friend than a walled city” and that “quarrels separate friends like a closed door with bars.”
Many of us have been there at some point in our lives, but most of us have no more than 850,000 followers on Twitter watching our fights unfold in public. Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom has started to boil over in recent weeks.
Kim Dotcom, Mathias Ortmann, and Bram van der Kolk seemed to be great friends and business partners while building and running Megaupload together. Even after the US government destroyed the service in 2012, the trio worked hard to launch New Zealand’s file-hosting service Mega in 2013, aiming to emulate the success of Megaupload, minus the legal costs.
Mega review begins
What happened next is unclear, but according to New Zealand’s corporate registry, Dotcom Resigned as manager of Mega on August 29, 2013. Ortmann resigned as manager on April 1, 2015, but with his colleague Van der Kolk still at Mega today.
During the summer of 2013, Dotcom announced that it had done with Mega and was no longer a shareholder. He was to focus on building Baboom, a music platform concept formerly known as Megabox.
A year later, Dotcom broke off all ties with Babom. Dotcom’s shares in Baboom were acquired by one of Mega’s early investors and a few months later, Dotcom to advertise Huge “serious”, referring to a “hostile takeover by a Chinese investor”.
In the years since, Dotcom has periodically criticized Mega, including in 2016 when it repeated allegations of Chinese influence while warning users not to back up their files. At the time, Megan President Stephen Hall said he didn’t know what prompted Dotcom to make such comments, but more than six years later, Dotcom is still making them.
Ortmann and van der Kolk become new targets
Dotcom has turned its attention to former co-workers Ortmann and van der Kolk, and last week publicly blamed her exit from Mega, saying they “stealed” the company from her. It’s unclear how this aligns with previous allegations regarding his main character’s feud with former Mega CEO Tony Lentino, who also founded the domain name registrar Instra.
With local media knowing that Dotcom hasn’t spoken to former friends Ortmann and van der Kolk in years, their latest agreement to avoid extradition in the Megaupload case by pleading guilty to organized crime charges puts Dotcom in a difficult position.
He said, “He offered the other defendants who had feigned innocence for more than 10 years a good deal to release a false confession.” Someone says last week. And it didn’t end there.
After the research team have found that Mega was vulnerable to attacks allowing a “complete waiver of user file privacy”, Ortmann himself responded via a Security Notice Noting that the issues have been resolved.
In response, Dotcom accused Ortmann and van der Kolk of creating “back doors” in Mega so that the Chinese government could decrypt user files. “The same shady people who just made a deal with the US and New Zealand governments to back down on the US extradition case by falsely accusing me,” he said. added.
Conflict risks collateral damage
Whether this reference to a non-extradition agreement betrays what was already on Dotcom’s mind is up for debate, but whatever the motive, he doesn’t let it go. In a tweet published yesterday, he once again informed his 850,000 followers that the company he founded “Not sureAnd people who think their files can’t be read by Mega are wrong.
Soon, the dotcom delivered another message in an even darker tone. He visits Mega, the company he co-founded and where his colleagues still work. The tweet can be interpreted in several ways, but none of it appears to be helpful to his former teammates, Mega, or his users.
“In addition to the vulnerabilities, there is a full report of serious copyright infringements on Mega with millions of active links and channels in the pipeline,” he said. Someone says.
Submitting a Mega or Megaupload related copyright infringement report is usually associated with Dotcom competitors. In 2014, a report by NetNames did just that and was met with a fiery response from the former Dotcom.
However, in this case, Dotcom says the new breach report is intended to shower Mega and Megaupload in the same light, to the benefit of both. Showing their similarities, she stated that “Mega is still like Megaupload, a perfectly legal dual-use technology.”
Whether technology is really at the heart of this particular problem is up for debate.
Neither of the charges Ortmann and van der Kolk pleaded guilty to relying on technology, but rather based on a common foundation of human intentions. Barring the technical details, complex copyright issues often end up in the balance.
But perhaps the most worrying thing about this new complication in the escalating dispute is its ability to affect the minority of users who actually store fake files on Mega. Any detailed report of “gross copyright infringement” will draw negative attention to them directly, especially if the report includes active hyperlinks as the dotcom suggests.
Add to this Dotcom’s claims about why the contents of user files can be read, any conclusion that this upcoming abuse report has not been considered from a user’s point of view can easily be forgiven. This was certainly not the case when users were invited to join the privacy-focused site upon its launch.
“Let them watch Mega. There’s nothing to see (because) everything is encrypted,” Dotcom told Reuters in 2014, mocking the prospect of another experiment in Hollywood.
But even if user files can’t be played the way Dotcom recommends, the detailed report on fake live links on Mega still poses problems for users. When files hosted by Mega are publicly shared, their links contain the information needed to access the content and these files can be traced back to user accounts.
As usual, there’s plenty to unpack here, with many ifs, buts, maybes, and different moving parts. If nothing else, perhaps the most important takeaway is that when friends start arguing about emotional matters, avoiding collateral damage isn’t always a top priority.
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