bill-swift - March 24, 2012
The U.S. government shut down Megaupload last January on the grounds that it was being used for illegal filesharing activities. It's founder, Kim Dotcom, and the entire Megaupload crew was subsequently indicted and charged for conspiring to commit copyright infringement, money laundering, and two substantive counts of criminal copyright infringement.
Now Megaupload's users can be divided into two groups: the illegal filesharers, and the legal users who used the service to back up their files. The latter group has nothing to worry about, obviously, since they did nothing illegal. The former group, on the other hand, is probably sweating buckets because they could probably be charged with copyright infringement if it's proven in court that they indeed engage in illegal filesharing activities. Not feeling too good about sharing that Kim Kardashian sex tape through the site now, huh?
So what some unscrupulous people did was capitalize on that fear and build a scam to get these people to hand over their money so they can escape being slapped with the fake infringement charges. These scammers posed as lawyers under a legitimate-sounding law firm called "Dr. Kroner and colleagues" and sent off emails to random users telling them to pay up--or be charged.
The fake law firm claims to represent rightsholders such as Universal, Sony, EMI, Warner, and Dreamworks. They include some fake IP addresses and timestamps in their letter to convince the recipient that they have indeed been busted. The scammers then proceed to tell the users that they could be liable for fines amounting to 10,000 euros, unless they pay 147 euros to make the entire case go away. No specific copyright titles are mentioned and the claim does not include the customary "cease and desist" element that is common in these letters.
The website of the fake law firm has since been taken down, and no doubt the scam may have had a number of unsuspecting (but guilty) victims fork over their money because of the threats. In light of this, the MPAA's vice president, Howard Gantman, confirmed to media that the studios will not be filing charges against individual Megaupload users for their activities on the site.
Now do I hear a collective sigh of relief here? Quick lesson from the scam: if it sounds too good to be true, then it's probably not true at all. And if you can't deal with the consequences, say no to piracy.
Article by Hazel Chua
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