It's hard to measure the full impact of the FBI shutdown of Megaupload. The site was responsible for a reported 4% of all internet traffic, with millions of registered, paying users happily up- and downloading everything from wedding pics to the complete Lady Gaga discography.
God knows how many of them were trafficking in crappy Hollywood films or dreck like the latest Chris Brown or Adele. All shit that will be footnotes some day in some knowing culture studies textbook look-back on the early part of this inglorious century, but otherwise forgotten, and thankfully so. As far as I'm concerned, people who up- or download any of that sludge should definitely be fined or sent to jail ... but not for copyright violation. They should be fined or sent to jail for disseminating the corporate roach-vomit that constitutes most of contemporary American pop culture. You don't even want to know what I think should be done to the people who create or publish that shit.
But, seriously. Should Britain have allowed Iran to extradite Salman Rushdie for his blasphemous Satanic Verses? Because that's basically what we're looking at here. One culture's laws trumping everyone else's.
That said, I'm not here to argue in Kim Dotcom's defense. I'm here to lament the loss of countless music blogs, the loss of the communities they fostered, the loss of the evidence of otherwise forgotten expressive culture(s) that they brought to the surface and shared.
Most notably, Owl Qaeda's Holy Warbles, which first had its Megaupload content stolen by the FBI action. As if that weren't enough, no doubt freaking out over the Megaupload action, Blogger simply shut his blog down, claiming multiple instances of copyright infringement. Of--we should be clear--expressive cultural artifacts that were either long out of print (and never to be reprinted) or so obscure as to be readily unavailable to anyone whose head is not a giant interactive encyclopedia.
The last thing I downloaded from HW was a rare, completely out of print album by Marie Jubran, a Syrian artist who recorded mostly during the 50s I think and who doesn't even have so much as an English-language Wikipedia page. I have a lot of Arabic music from the period and a couple of related books, and I'd never even heard of her before visiting Holy Warbles. That is the sort of thing we're talking about. Gone now. Not just the music, mind you, which is lovely. But an artifact that is now once again unavailable for, say, anyone studying the region and period.
Holy Warbles, and blogs like it, are--for all intents and purposes--libraries. That, really, is their function. Libraries that store things that not even the NYPL or Queens Borough Public Library have. (I should know; I've ransacked both for their CD and other media collections, which I--yes, you guessed it--immediately download to my computer. Will the FBI be visiting our libraries next?)
Another casualty in the FBI's completely unethical shut-down: Madrotter. Run by Henk, a self-described "Dutch guy living in Bandung since 1996," the site links to, or used to link to, some 2,000 out of print Indonesian records. Henk isn't giving up. "As long as I can find an upload service that still works Imma keep giving you people great music," he writes in a recent post. Again, not just great music, but a library. A library that was being accessed by more than 40,000 people a month.
The carnage hardly ends there. The wildly popular Mutant Sounds and Global Grooves were both significantly spavined as well. Then, there's my absolute favorite music blog of all time: The Vault: Japanese Music Junkies Unite, a semi-collaborative blog that housed more than 5,000 Japanese records and tapes, most completely out of print, was also more-or-less wiped off the map. In a very real sense, it's like the Library of Alexandria burning down x 1,000. Or 10,000. No one really knows.
And this, we must assume, is just the beginning. How long before Awesome Tapes from Africa, Moroccan Tape Stash or Monrakplengthai are wiped out as well? Again, we're not talking about shit you throw onto your iPod before heading off to the gym; this is serious cultural evidence. These are, I can't stress it enough, libraries. And thoughtless, good-for-nothing corporate asswipes who supply rat-diarrhea-producing mental aphids like the members of MGMT and Bright Eyes with, like, cocaine-spending money are, essentially, destroying them.
As Lily Tomlin once put it: "I resent losing the ozone just so we can have PAM."
NOTE: Thanks to Jessibird for alerting me to this.
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