Kim Dotcom sticks it to the man, again, with Mega; The future of libraries

Molly Wood Jan 22, 2013

Kim Dotcom sticks it to the man, again, with Mega; The future of libraries

Molly Wood Jan 22, 2013

If you’ve heard of the file-sharing website Megaupload, you’ve probably heard of it’s enigmatic founder, Kim Dotcom. The larger-than-life New Zealand resident is famous for driving a fleet of luxury cars with vanity license plates that say things like GOD and HACKER. But he’s probably even better known for being the target of the largest criminal copyright case, ever.

Dotcom’s house was raided and his website shut down by the FBI last year after allegations that Megaupload was used to pirate half a billion dollars of content like music and movies.

But now Dotcom’s back with a new similar website called Mega. The wild launch party over the weekend included a fake raid with a real helicopter, and a joking plea from Dotcom himself.

“Stop this madness! Let’s all be friends,” a laughing Dotcom told the raucous crowd.

Mega offers a higher level of privacy that could make it harder for authorities to identify pirated content. It could also turn up the heat in a debate that’s getting even more contentious. Part of the reason for that is because of a new report released this week by the American Assembly, a research institute connected with Columbia University.

“Pirates are also the best consumers,” says Joe Karaganis, vice president of the American Assembly. Karaganis and his team conducted a survey of more than 3,000 people in the U.S. and Germany, asking users about their online habits and their opinions on punishment for illegal downloading.

“That’s a little counterintuitive, but, in fact, there’s no commitment to piracy, as such,” he says. “It’s just a way of getting access to more stuff. So, if you look at what they’re doing, they’re also buying lots of materials.”

Karaganis thinks more regulation of companies like Mega that might profit from piracy is better than going after the users themselves. Meanwhile industry groups are pushing for initiatives that would punish users by cutting off or squeezing the bandwidth of their internet access.

You don’t have to be a book worm to know that in 2013, libraries are changing. San Antonio Texas is planning a library that will feature e-readers, laptops, and tablets — but no books. My neighborhood spot, the Brooklyn Public Library, has an Information Commons with recording studios and meeting rooms that a startup would love. Then there’s Connecticut’s Westport Public Library, which has put in a 3D printer that patrons can use to make stuff from melted plastic. Maxine Bleiweis, the Library’s director, says it’s part of their goal to stay relevant.

“What libraries have always been about, and will continue to be about, are simply places where you can learn what you need to know in order to be a fully functioning member of society,” explains Bleiweis.

The Library also has WiFi that blankets its parking lot and beyond. Administrators found space for the 3D printer when a set of stacks went digital.

“We had a space that was freed up — in part, because some of our books morphed into electronic format, which was a great thing because the information that we’re able to give to people is far more up-to-date than printed form.”

The reviews from patrons of changing libraries are mixed. A Pew Research study out just this morning deals with this topic. Research analyst Kathryn Zickuhr points to data that says the bookish don’t seem eager for certain kinds of change.

“We asked them what sort of services and programs libraries should offer in the future,” says Zickuhr. “They were really in favor of almost all of them, except for moving some books and stacks out of public locations to make way for all of these new activities. So that was very interesting.”

What changes are you seeing at your local library–and what would you like to see? Tweet us your thoughts here.

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