THE FIGHT AGAINST PIRACY

A VIP client for Kim Dotcom

Spain provides the most online traffic for the Mega download website

Internet businessman Kim Dotcom poses with models at the launch of his Mega download site.
Internet businessman Kim Dotcom poses with models at the launch of his Mega download site. NIGEL MARPLE (REUTERS)

France and Brazil are fighting it out over the silver medal. Bronze went to Belgium, although Switzerland and Mexico were on the brink of taking it home. But no country has been able to compete for gold against the one and only nation to ever make it to the top of the podium: Spain. No, we are not talking about Olympic achievements. Instead, Spain heads the list of countries that provided most online traffic to the download website Mega for the last three weeks, which is as long as Kim Dotcom has had his new file-sharing site up and running.

In fact, the German-born former hacker - who is currently out on bail and is facing online piracy charges from the FBI for his previous file-sharing site, Megaupload - said the following via his Twitter account: "Spain loves Mega and Mega loves Spain."

Yet despite his online liturgy, the list of faithful followers is not as "mega" as one might expect. So show the first figures on the site's traffic, published by the online analytics consulting company ComScore, which monitors internet traffic on a monthly basis. The latest figures, published this week and corresponding to January 2013, show that 389,000 unique users visited Mega from Spanish territory, a far cry from the millions that go to leading sites such as Google or Facebook. Of all the people who connected to the internet in Spain in January, 1.5 percent went to Kim Dotcom's new site.

Mega was born on January 19 (or January 20 in New Zealand, where the one-time hacker and millionaire is waiting in his luxury mansion to see whether he is finally extradited to the United States). During its first day of operation, demand was such that it was virtually inaccessible, meaning that ComScore's calculations are for 12 days.

Multiplying the average visitors by a month, and assuming that the novelty effect does not wear off, Mega could potentially reach more than one million unique visitors, as much as sites like change.org and more than Rapidshare, one of the best-known file-sharing websites. Among ComScore's other revelations is the fact that the average Mega user is a single, middle-class male, aged between 25 and 34.

The average Mega user is a single, middle-class male, aged 25 to 34

Several thousand of those visitors are being redirected from other sites, such as Motorpasionmoto.com or Videoaltadefinicion.com. It is the same technique used by Megaupload, Kim Dotcom's earlier creation: after uploading a file, the site offered a link to it. Other websites published that link, and millions of people had free access to movies, TV series and music supposedly protected by intellectual property laws.

That is why the FBI shut down Megaupload and is accusing Dotcom and six associates of making 135 million euros and causing losses to the entertainment industry in the range of 386 million euros. To save himself further legal troubles, Dotcom's latest file-sharing site has a new feature: when users store a file in Mega, they receive a decryption key that is needed to retrieve the file. "What you do with the key is your responsibility," says Dotcom.

Yet the company has already had to intervene in around 150 cases (from the nearly 100 million files Dotcom claims are hosted by Mega) following complaints by copyright associations. He also blocked an independent site that enabled users to search for movies, songs and other files on Mega.

But despite the suspicions raised by his track record, for now Kim Dotcom has run into more trouble over the initial slowness of Mega than about complaints from the authors of copyrighted material. Even so, the existence of the website and the fact that Spain is providing the most traffic for it is surely no laughing matter for the International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA). This influential conglomerate has just asked the US government to put Spain back on the 301 Watch List, which it had managed to get off of only last year. If it comes about, it will be another doubtful medal for the country.

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