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From File-Sharing To Prison: The Story of a Jailed Megaupload Programmer (arstechnica.com) 126

An anonymous reader writes: "I had to be made an example of as a warning to all IT people," says former Megaupload programmer Andrew Nomm, one of seven Megaupload employees arrested in 2012. Friday his recent interview with an Estonian journalist was republished in English by Ars Technica (which notes that at one point the 50 million users on Megaupload's file-sharing site created 4% of the world's internet traffic). The 37-year-old programmer pleaded guilty to felony copyright infringement in exchange for a one-year-and-one-day sentence in a U.S. federal prison, which the U.S. Attorney General's office called "a significant step forward in the largest criminal copyright case in US history."

"It turned out that I was the only defendant in the last 29 years to voluntarily go from the Netherlands to the USA..." Nomm tells the interviewer, adding "I'll never get back the $40,000 that was seized by the USA." He describes his experience in the U.S. prison system after saying good-bye to his wife and 13-year-old son, adding that now "I have less trust in all sorts of state affairs, especially big countries. I saw the dark side of the American dream in all its glory..."

In U.S. court documents Nomm "acknowledged" that the financial harm to copyright holders "exceeded $400 million."
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From File-Sharing To Prison: The Story of a Jailed Megaupload Programmer

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  • by headkase ( 533448 ) on Saturday June 25, 2016 @09:35AM (#52388159)

    The USA sees its future in intellectual property. Non-tangible goods. With that directive the pendulum is swinging towards the absurd side right now. Eventually, say 10 to 15 years or so - government time, it'll swing back to a sane-middle.

    • What makes you think that?
      • by Anonymous Coward

        Just-world fallacy.

    • Everything I create is non-tangible intellectual property. All biomedical genetic advances are in the end described by sequences and methods. Completely replicable. And without patents or copyrights they would never ever reach their potential as there would be no money to deliver them to people or companies. Companies would not base product lines around things they can't monetize or would expect to be undercut by an overseas manufacturer. SO they rot in the lab.

      • by Type44Q ( 1233630 ) on Saturday June 25, 2016 @10:59AM (#52388427)
        "It has been pretended by some, (and in England especially,) that inventors have a natural and exclusive right to their inventions, and not merely for their own lives, but inheritable to their heirs. But while it is a moot question whether the origin of any kind of property is derived from nature at all, it would be singular to admit a natural and even an hereditary right to inventors. It is agreed by those who have seriously considered the subject, that no individual has, of natural right, a separate property in an acre of land, for instance.

        By an universal law, indeed, whatever, whether fixed or movable, belongs to all men equally and in common, is the property for the moment of him who occupies it, but when he relinquishes the occupation, the property goes with it. Stable ownership is the gift of social law, and is given late in the progress of society. It would be curious then, if an idea, the fugitive fermentation of an individual brain, could, of natural right, be claimed in exclusive and stable property.

        If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of every one, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it. Its peculiar character, too, is that no one possesses the less, because every other possesses the whole of it. He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me.

        That ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man, and improvement of his condition, seems to have been peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature, when she made them, like fire, expansible over all space, without lessening their density in any point, and like the air in which we breathe, move, and have our physical being, incapable of confinement or exclusive appropriation. Inventions then cannot, in nature, be a subject of property.

        Society may give an exclusive right to the profits arising from them, as an encouragement to men to pursue ideas which may produce utility, but this may or may not be done, according to the will and convenience of the society, without claim or complaint from anybody. Accordingly, it is a fact, as far as I am informed, that England was, until we copied her, the only country on earth which ever, by a general law, gave a legal right to the exclusive use of an idea. In some other countries it is sometimes done, in a great case, and by a special and personal act, but, generally speaking, other nations have thought that these monopolies produce more embarrassment than advantage to society; and it may be observed that the nations which refuse monopolies of invention, are as fruitful as England in new and useful devices."

        â"Thomas Jefferson, letter to Isaac McPherson, 13 August 1813

        • There is a problem in quoting Jefferson on IP.

          Jefferson was an aristocrat wholly dependent on slave labor. He spoke for a pre-industrial agrarian society that would ultimately be destroyed by the Machine --- and the Machine was the creation of those who did believe in IP.

          Jefferson had the good life handed to him on a plate. The kid up North? He had to work for it.

      • by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Saturday June 25, 2016 @11:03AM (#52388447) Homepage

        Everything I create is non-tangible intellectual property. All biomedical genetic advances are in the end described by sequences and methods. Completely replicable. And without patents or copyrights they would never ever reach their potential as there would be no money to deliver them to people or companies. Companies would not base product lines around things they can't monetize or would expect to be undercut by an overseas manufacturer. SO they rot in the lab.

        Because there's no money in selling medicine, like there's no money in selling groceries right? Most things end up as some form of actual product or service that does have value to people. Yes, we need incentives to make people come up with new ideas but we don't need to let them own them. I'm glad I don't have to pay royalty to the guy who invented the wheel and if you discover the cure for cancer, sorry I don't want to pay you and all your descendants in perpetuity either. It's humanity's knowledge and I'm willing to give you some time limited, exclusive rights as kickback for creating it but it's not yours like a man owns a shirt. Copyright, patents, trademarks yes but ownership no.

        The difference is fundamental, if it's my car I can choose when, where and how you get to drive it. I can add a GPS tracker and cameras and microphones (with info signs, so it's not covert) and alcolock and speed clamps and whatnot. If it was Hollywood's movie, they could do the same but it's not, they just got the copyright. They can make copies and sell copies, not dictate where, when and how people watch it or at least they shouldn't. I'm not against intellectual rights, but I'm against intellectual property rights. It's newspeak to create owners and an aura of permanence and right to control that doesn't and shouldn't exist. Particularly when you want to shorten copyright and they talk as if that would be stealing from them.

      • And without patents or copyrights they would never ever reach their potential as there would be no money to deliver them to people or companies.

        You mean like, without patents or copyrights, insurance companies would refuse to pay for treatments?

    • Intellectual property is a scam. Betting everything on it is a slow suicide.
    • No, that is not going to happen. Our government would have to be destroyed and replaced for that to happen.
  • by Baki ( 72515 ) on Saturday June 25, 2016 @09:40AM (#52388171)

    for the USA: manufacturing is done elsewhere, so it tries to monopolize the worlds intelectual property and tries to turn it into something protected and ever more valuable, extending copyrights indefinately and bullying any country that doesn't play ball.

    We can only hope for and wait for the total downfall and collapse of the US economy, before this madnes ends.

    • Intellectual property is the only hope for anybody anywhere. Shipping thing is so efficient that manufacturing is a race to the bottom; nobody is as efficient as a robot or as cheap as a Shenzhen factory slave.

      • by shmlco ( 594907 ) on Saturday June 25, 2016 @10:02AM (#52388243) Homepage

        If that's so, then perhaps the system itself needs to be changed. If food, clothing, and other items can be produced efficiently for pennies on the dollar, then perhaps we need to figure out how to give those things away to those who need them.

        • Right! Society should figure out how to take from each according to his ability, and give to reach according to his need. That kind of economic system would fix what ails Venezuela, to name just one country.

        • then perhaps we need to figure out how to give those things away to those who need them.

          No, we don't, because if stuff becomes dirt cheap, then even the poorest can afford them without handouts.

          The problem we are facing is that people keep lobbying to make stuff expensive: the price of basics like housing, transportation, food, education, medical care, and utilities is kept artificially and astronomically high through lobbying, both by corporations, unions, and other lobbies.

      • by thegarbz ( 1787294 ) on Saturday June 25, 2016 @10:30AM (#52388327)

        There's an economic system to keep this in check, tariffs and trade barriers.

        Unfortunately "free trade" sounds sexy and people are falling over them selves to screw western economies in an attempt to enter the eastern market.

    • Intellectual property is the only hope left ... for the USA ...

      So the USA ('s 1%) is hosed.

      Interesting that it's come full circle:

      Royal "patents", limiting the manufacturing of certain goods (needed by the colonists) to British companies, were a big part of the system for keeping the colonists dependent, low-priced, commodity producers for the enrichment of British companies. The colonials (at least in New England), in turn, subsidized the immigration of engineers, mechanics, tanners, shipwrights, and such

    • Is it really so? It can't be that ALL USA's manufacturing is done elsewhere. I'd at least expect them to be self-sufficient wrt housing, food and energy and that's enough to survive any crisis, perhaps not with the same government, but who cares about that..
    • Manufacturing is often done elsewhere at the prerogative of American companies, it isn't just magically done elsewhere for no reason, or because some other company won a blue ribbon at the UN.

      You can hate and wish us ill, but it won't make us ill. Or you rich and healthy.

    • We can only hope for and wait for the total downfall and collapse of the US economy, before this madnes ends.

      Disney can produce a film like Zootopia, distribute it globally, and sell a billion dollars worth of tickets. Disney can repeat and do it three times in one year You think just maybe India, Japan, China might be wondering why the lightening never strikes them --- and if they had a marketable export product in the Arts and Culture, where do you think they would come down on IP?

      I am betting that it would be right where we are now.

    • by dbIII ( 701233 )

      We can only hope for and wait for the total downfall and collapse of the US economy, before this madnes ends

      The US keep on trying to do that and came close a couple of times so far in just this century but didn't quite pull it off. Maybe those people who want Trump as President (with Hillary being not much better) are pushing hard for a third time.

      Personally I think the US economy collapsing would be a huge fucking disaster for everyone.

  • by yayoubetcha ( 893774 ) on Saturday June 25, 2016 @09:56AM (#52388223)

    A lighter sentence for a worse crime. God Bless Amerifuckingca

    • You are supposed to embrace the heresy. The rich are only here to make the rules for you. They only have 1 rule for themselves. Greed no matter the cost.
  • Harm vs punishment (Score:4, Insightful)

    by QuietLagoon ( 813062 ) on Saturday June 25, 2016 @10:03AM (#52388249)

    ...In U.S. court documents Nomm "acknowledged" that the financial harm to copyright holders "exceeded $400 million."...

    Wouldn't the relatively light jail sentence handed down belie the level of financial harm claimed?

    • Was MegaUpload itself responsible for the $400M damages, or did it just knowingly profit from the infringement? Was this defendant largely responsible for MegaUpload's share of the damages, or did he just aid and abet the principals of the scheme? As I see it, he is at least two layers removed from the full damages that he "acknowledged" as part of his plea agreement.

    • As Stalin used to say, confession is queen of all proofs. Though as far as investigators were concerned, Nomm wasn't very important to them. They didn't even interrogate him.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      He pleaded guilty for a reduced sentence. If he'd fought the charges he faced up to 55 years in prison. That's how they get you. They throw every charge at you that they can, so you don't ever dare fight back and instead accept their lesser mercy so they can use you as an example for the next person they target.
      It's no wonder he "acknowledged" $400 million in harm. If I was faced with the rest of my life in prison and they demanded I acknowledge that Bigfoot is costing hunters billions of lost dollars in re

    • by arglebargle_xiv ( 2212710 ) on Sunday June 26, 2016 @01:20AM (#52391537)
      What I don't understand is WTF he "voluntarily" travelled to the US for. It'd be like an atheist "voluntarily" travelling to renaissance-era Spain to answer charges of heresy, there's only one way it can possibly end.
  • "American Dream"? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ooloorie ( 4394035 ) on Saturday June 25, 2016 @10:11AM (#52388291)

    Can you call forcing your policies on other countries "democracy?"

    Large-scale copyright infringement is a felony in many countries, and we got our current draconian copyright system in large part at the urging of European publishers. Copyright law is still more permissive in the US than elsewhere. References to the US or the "American Dream" are utterly gratuitous.

    They wanted me to confess to knowing that Megaupload was earning big money from illegal movies. This I read only later on the Internet. I didn’t deal with financial issues in the company.

    Someone seems to be criminally naive.

    I don’t believe the US will help Estonia in any war.

    I don't either. Your point being?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      So when are we going to arrest all the enron employees for the ceo selling some barges to himself? Oh, they didn't know the executives were criminals? Sounds criminally naive to me.

    • by Njovich ( 553857 )

      Large-scale copyright infringement is a felony in many countries, and we got our current draconian copyright system in large part at the urging of European publishers. Copyright law is still more permissive in the US than elsewhere.

      So it is purely coincidental that this Estonian national, that was living in the Netherlands, ended up in prison in the US? While the law may be more permissive, this will do you absolutely no good as the prosecutors will pressure you into accepting a plea deal that barely involv

      • So it is purely coincidental that this Estonian national, that was living in the Netherlands, ended up in prison in the US?

        No, it's not coincidental at all: he violated US copyrights, and under international agreements, that is something that the US legal system is entitled to deal with. Other countries are free to cancel those agreements any time they like. The Netherlands, Estonia, and Turkey could end extradition treaties with the US, or even break off all relations. Of course, there are unavoidable econ

        • by dbIII ( 701233 )
          It's really about having an established distribution network and barriers of entry to new players. That used to attract international talent to Hollywood so it was reinforced with the best "talent" from around the world, economies of scale etc.
          Today there are more barriers of movement to talented people into America and distribution is not so difficult today which means you don't need Fox or Disney behind you to get your stuff out there. The Hollywood advantage is vanishing. A major reason is self-inflic
          • Today there are more barriers of movement to talented people into America and distribution is not so difficult today which means you don't need Fox or Disney behind you to get your stuff out there. The Hollywood advantage is vanishing.

            Well, good luck with that. I wouldn't hold my breath. Right now, continental Europe's output is pathetic.

            It's really about having an established distribution network and barriers of entry to new players.

            How? Places like France and Germany have large government subsidies and go

            • by dbIII ( 701233 )
              Did I say Europe anywhere? It's a big world out there but you chose as a strawman an area that is rarely even going to bother making much English language media so is not even attempting to compete for the same market.

              and anybody can get on Netflix and Amazon

              Exactly my point. Are you arguing just for the sake of it?

              Crews don't hold copyrights, so where the movies get produced hardly matters.

              And with computers Dell had the management and distribution so they thought the people who made their stuff would ne

              • Exactly my point. Are you arguing just for the sake of it?

                No, but you obviously are. Njovich asked why the US brings all these copyright infringement cases against non-citizens, and I explained why. End of story.

                There are an increasing number of movies where the US involvement is not much more than the guy that talks to the banks, thus a tiny step away from being a foreign studio.

                Well, and you can bet that those "guys who talk to the bank" will make sure that they own the copyrights, that their movies will

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 25, 2016 @10:23AM (#52388311)

    The people who "share" files were never the ones that would buy content.

    A file shared is not a media stolen.
    A file shared is not a copyright violated - no money exchanged hands for the "media".
    File sharing isn't "pirating" - no sabres were rattled, no ships were stormed, no lives were lost.
    File sharing isn't "theft" - the original source of the file still exists and still belongs to the owner.

    When will we, the people, kick our collective government representatives in the nuts until they wake the fuck up and stop listening to these RICO act violators, these Mafia-like entities, these black-mailing con artists who continue to make record profits while whining that they aren't making more, while continuing to withhold payments to the artists, directors, actors, stunt-people, gaffers, mixers, computer artists, musicians and whatnot.

    Why are all of those that get the fruits of their labor stolen from them by the RIAA, MPAA, and other major criminal organizations like them, supporting these asshats? Why aren't they storming their strongholds and shoving spears through their collective entrails until they find the .1% of those organizations that aren't just greedy fuckwands willing to do anything just to make yet even more money.

    • Your arguments sound sane but couldn't be further from the truth.

      When 'theft' of imaginary property takes place, that causes the loss of imaginary sales. Which causes damage to some rich f**s bank account. As in: imaginary money that does *NOT* appear in said bank account. Whether or not that imaginary money would have appeared otherwise, is irrelevant: it's the not-showing-up-of-something-expected that counts here.

      For the 1%er concerned that's a very traumatic, life-changing event, and causes grave im

    • A file shared is a copyright violation, since it involves creating another unauthorized copy. It isn't commercial copyright infringement, but it's still against the law, and still can be a criminal matter (as opposed to a civil matter) in the US.

      Copyright serves useful purposes, in allowing people to create things more or less on spec, and profit from them according to the popularity. We do want to compensate creative people who create things for our use and/or enjoyment, and I haven't seen a better wa

  • down with the USA (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    sick of this authoritarian shithole

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I had to be made an example of as a warning ...

    This is standard behaviour for all governments and goes double, no, triple for the USA.

    I was the only defendant in the last 29 years to voluntarily go ...

    And that wasn't a red flag to him, especially since he knew was was being "made an example of"?

    I saw the dark side of the American dream ...

    There's no mystery how the US DOJ treats foreigners: Like the Australian who was imprisoned for 7 years before being charged with a crime.

  • by El_Muerte_TDS ( 592157 ) on Saturday June 25, 2016 @10:51AM (#52388389) Homepage

    Ruin a lot of lives, seriously damage the global economy. It's all fine, as long as you don't make it easy for anyone to share a song or movie.

  • by Applehu Akbar ( 2968043 ) on Saturday June 25, 2016 @10:54AM (#52388401)

    We keep using the phrase "The US is the world's policemen" without realizing that it is literally true, that even if you are not a US person and you do something that happens to be an offense in the US, even a nonviolent one, the FBI can come and get you in every part of the world.

    This story needs to be trumpeted (or hillaried, if this is possible) in this year's political campaign. This is a lot more serious an abuse of centralized power than those banana regulations in the European Union.

  • His real name is Andrus Nõmm.

    Andrus is a very frequent Estonian first name.
    The strange umlaut in "Nomm" / "Nõmm" is this letter: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]
    No Estonian would be named "Andrew" nor "Nomm".
    • by Anonymous Coward

      We have changed his name, pray that we do not change it further.

  • Meanwhile, the people that have stolen my credit card numbers 5 times in the last few years are living the high life; ignored by the grand american law enforcement machine. I am not a happy camper.
  • by master_p ( 608214 ) on Sunday June 26, 2016 @04:49AM (#52391959)

    I've read all comments, and it seems everyone here accepts that providing a file sharing service is an illegal activity.

    Did this man actually uploaded copyrighted material? He did not.

    Did he worked on it with the purpose of others uploading movies? He did not. He just provided a file sharing service, which I have used it myself to distribute family videos that were large enough to not be sharable by email.

    So why do you all accept this ludicrus position that file sharing is illegal?

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