While SOPA was the talk of the town last week, this week the closure of Megaupload is making headlines, and many fear for the survival of cloud-based file storage services after legit Megaupload users lost their data. As a user of Dropbox, I too was concerned at first. Some of the files I work with are either shared with quite a few people or giant files that I don’t really want to email. Dropbox has become a useful tool, and if it were to be shutdown because a small percentage of its users were sharing copyrighted files, it would be a sad day indeed. But the good news is that Megaupload is not as innocent as some might believe, and other file sharing services such as Dropbox, MediaFire, and RapidShare are not in danger of being shutdown.
The biggest difference between Megaupload and other similar services is that Megaupload encourages piracy and the others discourage it. Megaupload gives incentives to users that upload large amounts of data and will even delete data that isn't downloaded regularly. The Megaupload indictment also alleges that lead programmer Bram van der Kolk suggested Megaupload reward users that upload “full popular DVD rips” with cash. These are not the practices of most file sharing services.
Legit file-sharing services actually write it into their terms of service that users cannot upload copyrighted material and they follow up on it. If you try to use Dropbox or MediaFire to share copyrighted music, movies, or software, they will find out and cancel your account. Megaupload would also find out, but it seems instead of cancelling your account, they would give you some money.
This story is eerily similar to the SOPA story. The fear that legit sites will be shut down for minor infractions could very well be a real concern, but it is not the intention of the US government to prevent businesses that try to adhere to the law from doing business. The owners of Megaupload were profiting from the distribution of illegal material. That was their business model. That’s why they were targeted. If Dropbox, MediaFire, Rapidshare, or any other file sharing service encourage or turn a blind eye to copyrighted material being shared on their site, they might risk being shut down. But that’s simply not going to happen. While I would never suggest putting all your eggs in one basket, or files on one hard drive, your data is safe in the cloud as long as you're careful to avoid sites that moonlight as .xxx sites.