Mega boss' focus on people 'rather than revenue'

TOM PULLAR-STRECKER
Last updated 05:00 09/02/2013

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The new chief executive of Kim Dotcom's Mega business, former InternetNZ boss Vikram Kumar, says the cyber-locker service has proved a big hit even though only a few of its 2.5 million patrons are paying customers.

The appointment of Kumar to the top job at Mega was revealed yesterday in a statement by Finn Batato, one of several executives who, along with Dotcom, is fighting extradition to the United States on copyright and racketeering charges.

Kumar resigned from InternetNZ, which manages New Zealand's internet space, last month and his surprise appointment is likely to lend a further air of legitimacy to Mega, which has so far steered clear of the business practices that appeared to get predecessor Megaupload into hot water with US authorities.

Kumar said he would also be in charge of Dotcom's Megabox music service, which is due to launch later this year as a subsidiary of Mega but which has attracted greater controversy.

Mega was launched on January 20 and Kumar said the company was concentrating for now on encouraging people to use the service rather than persuading them to pay. It was not yet enforcing a 50 gigabyte cap on free accounts.

Members can pay monthly fees entitling them to extra storage or the high bandwidth that would be required if they were giving many other people access to their stored files. "[But] at this point the idea is to try to sign up more people rather than revenue," Kumar said.

Mega was proving most popular in continental Europe and South America, where privacy tended to be most highly prized, Kumar said. He was aware of students using the service to share lecture notes, publishers using it to upload large files for printing and people using it to share access to large email attachments.

Files are encrypted before they are uploaded, both to ensure members' privacy and to protect Mega from accusations it might be knowingly harbouring pirated material.

The practice means members would need to share their encryption keys as well as links to their files in order to share any hosted content. Unlike Megaupload, Mega does not financially reward members for uploading frequently shared files.

Nevertheless, Kumar said Mega had received 500 requests from 150 rights holders to remove files that they believed had been pirated. Kumar said the company had acted on the requests "very quickly".

Megabox would let Mega users listen to music uploaded by artists for free, but only if they downloaded Dotcom's Megakey application, which would replace at least some advertisements on other websites they then visited with those served up by Mega.

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Overseas internet experts have speculated that could breach other website owners' copyright and Kiwi blogger Russell Brown has blasted the concept as "fundamentally based on depriving one unwilling party of revenue in order to pass it on to another".

Kumar said he had listened to all the criticisms, including Brown's, but had yet to "have a detailed discussion with the rest of the [Mega] team as to what their plans are".

"[Mega] has got a board of directors. I feel it's my job to make sure they have all the information, including all of the public comment and my views, but at the end of the day, I work for a company and they make the call," he said.

- (Live Matches)

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