The Future of File-Sharing for College Students and Everyone Else
I am sure by now everyone knows what MegaUpload, SOPA, and PIPA is. Ever since the MegaUpload has been taken down and its owners arrested for harboring illegal content, the whole cyberlocker (also what file-hosting sites are called) community has become very scared of what could happen to them. In order to avoid the problems that MegaUpload has had with the U.S. government, cyberlocker sites have been recently (since last week) deleting massive amounts of files and accounts that have “infringing” or “illegal” content. But cyberlocker sites are using the term “infringing” and “illegal” quite loosely because many of the deleted accounts and files were never illegal or infringing in the first place. The main problem with cyberlocker sites right now is that everybody that is uploading content to their accounts automatically lose all their data and the links that are associated with the content become dead no matter if the content is illegal or not. Certain cyberlocker sites have also shut down, or more accurately cut off, all their file-sharing services to the public whether a member is has a premium or free account. The majority of account owners can only upload content to their account and only download content from their account; no file-sharing link is provided anymore. Most believe once everything calms down, file-sharing will be back to a new normal with stricter policies on the types of files that can be shared. Still, no one knows for sure. After all, even if the MegaUpload case does “go away”, SOPA and PIPA bills could still be passed though both bills are on the bench right now.
This file-sharing case has already affected businesses, people and college students. Though accounts and content can still be accessed, sharing the content is impossible no matter if the content is illegal or not. For example, let’s say I have a large project file that I need to send to my classmates. None of the content in the file is illegal or infringing because both me and my classmates have discussed what can and can’t be used. Yet when I uploaded the project file to the cyberlocker site, the file was immediately deleted because of some unforeseen illegal or infringing content. So now I have some problems: 1) I obviously cannot send my project file easily to my classmates because even if my project was not deleted, the cyberlocker site would not produce any file-sharing links or the file-sharing links would only stay active for a limited amount of time (update: some cyberlocker sites have turned file-sharing services back on). 2) My security has been threatened because some thing or some one has deleted my file without telling me any clear reason why my file was deleted. And though my file was “deleted”, I don’t know that my file was actually deleted. Someone else, the cyber locker company or the government could very easily be looking at my file’s content and somehow determine that the content is illegal or infringing. 3) Instead of easily sharing my project file with my classmates, I have to spend more time finding alternative ways to share my file and finding a way can be quite a hassle especially if I don’t know of any other way to share files. Solutions for these problems hark back to old, but still used technology such as setting up meetings and using USB thumb drives to share project files between computers. And if a meeting between classmates is not possible because one of the classmates is on vacation, then the team has one member that will be behind in the project which delays everyone from finishing the project in enough time.
This problem affects many more groups of people than just the people who upload and download illegal or infringing content. In fact, the majority of the content on all file-sharing sites is mostly non-legal content such as pictures, presentations and other documents that are shared between companies, families and other groups of people. People who use upload and download illegal or infringing content are actually more of a minority group. So the effect that this file-sharing scare has had on people and companies will most likely not go away though file-sharing will come back. Most likely, when file-sharing does recover there will be much stricter rules on what kind of content can be uploaded, downloaded, shared, time-limits on active links will be stricter and cyberlocker site owners will have a more cut-throat policy when it comes to deciding what accounts and content get deleted from a server.