The past few days have been filled with digital drama. First came the blackouts of many sites to protest SOPA and PIPA piracy laws on January 18, which seem to have worked because both bills have since lost support in Washington. Yesterday, the Department of Justice basically said “awwww that blackout thing y’all did was cute, but we’re dropping the hammer,” and shutdown the site MegaUpload. Just for perspective, Megaupload is the thirteenth largest site on the entire internet and is basically a vast catalogue of movies, television shows, and music uploaded by users for “sharing” purposes — in other words it’s piracy central and the stuff SOPA and PIPA dreams are made of. In response, the hacktivist group Anonymous shut down a bunch of sites just to show who’s boss.
But perhaps the most surprising aspect of the recent drama was reported by MTV News via The New York Post: Swizz Beatz — producer, rapper, and husband to singer Alicia Keys — is the CEO of MegaUpload. According to the report, he is listed as CEO both on the site’s “About Us” page and on Wikipedia under his government name Kasseem Dean. That Swizz has a secret life as a music bootlegger is shocking considering his ties to major labels and their artists, i.e. the main folks angry about copyright infringement. But suddenly the MegaUpload “commercial” featuring every celebrity you can think of, seemingly against their own best interests and those of their record companies, makes sense. Did Swizz Beatz use his industry connections to put together an all-star cast of artists in the name of piracy?
The dubious sources for this information, easy coincidental connections, and fact that no one from Swizz Beatz’s camp has commented on the story yet makes all of it a bit shady. Further, Forbes reports that there is no Kasseem Dean named in the 72-page FBI indictment, so don’t count on seeing “Free Swizz” t-shirts for sale any time soon. That piece speculates that although Swizz “didn’t likely promote Megaupload simply out of the goodness of his heart (Swizz also has partnerships with Lotus and Reebok), it seems he was too late to the party to receive any equity, perhaps lured unwittingly to serve as a reputable figurehead for a company whose leaders could already see the storm clouds on the horizon.”
I can see the lack of equity part, but unwittingly shilling for a music/video download site that just about anyone can see infringes on copyright? I’m not so sure about that…