Wanted Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom has launched a new file-sharing website, promising users beefed-up privacy levels in a defiant move against US prosecutors who accuse him of facilitating massive online piracy.
The colourful entrepreneur unveiled the Mega site ahead of a lavish gala and press conference planned at his New Zealand mansion, the anniversary of his arrest on racketeering charges related to his now-shut Megaupload file-sharing site.
Megaupload, which Dotcom started in 2005, was one of the most popular sites on the web until US prosecutors shut it down, accusing Dotcom and several company officials of facilitating millions of illegal downloads.
"As of this minute one year ago (hash)Megaupload was destroyed by the US Government. Welcome to http://Mega.co.nz," Dotcom posted on his Twitter account as the new site went live. Within hours, Dotcom wrote, Mega had received 250,000 user registrations.
US 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 film-makers and songwriters lost around 500 million dollars in copyright revenue.
Dotcom argues that he cannot be held responsible for copyright infringement committed by others and insists Megaupload complied with copyrights by removing links to pirated material when asked.
"In the dark ages ... the enemies of progress burned books," Dotcom said last week at an Auckland ice cream shop, where he handed out ice cream cups, some bearing Willy Wonka-style golden tickets to his launch party. "And now today they are burning websites. And Mega is going to be the website that is going to end all of that."
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 cannot see what is in the files being shared. Dotcom could then argue that Mega - which bills itself as "the privacy company" - cannot be held liable for content it cannot see.