A new file-sharing website was launched in New Zealand on Sunday by indicted Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom, promising users greater privacy levels in a defiant move against the global prosecutors
Dotcom, who has been accused of facilitating massive online piracy, unveiled the Mega site ahead of a lavish gala and press conference at his mansion north of Auckland on Sunday night.
Dotcom, who was born Kim Schmitz, started Megaupload in 2005 and turned it into one of the most popular sites on the web until U.S. prosecutors shut it down. Officials accused Dotcom and several company officials of facilitating millions of illegal downloads.
Dotcom said half a million users registered for Mega in its first 14 hours.
U.S. authorities are trying to extradite the German-born Internet tycoon from New Zealand, where he is free on bail.
Prosecutors say Dotcom made tens of millions of dollars while filmmakers and songwriters lost around $500 million in copyright revenue.
Dotcom argues that he can't be held responsible for copyright infringement committed by others, and insists Megaupload complied with copyrights by removing links to pirated material when asked.
"Our company and assets were taken away from us without a hearing," Dotcom said. "The privacy of our users was intruded on, communications were taken offline and free speech was attacked."
Users can store, share large files
Mega, like Megaupload, allows users to store and share large files. It offers 50 gigabytes of free storage, much more than similar sites such as Dropbox and Google Drive, and features a drag-and-drop upload tool.
The key difference is an encryption and decryption feature for data transfers that Dotcom says will protect him from the legal drama that has entangled Megaupload and threatened to put him behind bars.
The decryption keys for uploaded files are held by the users, not Mega, which means the company can't see what's in the files being shared.
Dotcom argues that Mega -- which bills itself as "the privacy company" -- therefore can't be held liable for content it cannot see. U.S. prosecutors declined to comment on the new site, referring only to a court document that cites several promises Dotcom made while seeking bail that he would not -- and could not -- start a Megaupload-style business until the criminal case was resolved.
Dotcom denied the new site was designed to provoke authorities, but got in plenty of digs at their expense, saying that their campaign to shutter Megaupload simply forced him to create a new and improved site.
"Sometimes good things come out of terrible events," Dotcom said.
"If it wasn't for the raid, we wouldn't have Mega."