Michael Robertson of Mp3tunes.com -- and formerly of the infamously shut down MP3.com -- was outspoken during the "Gimme Shelter From The Storm Clouds" panel at SXSWi on Tuesday, calling out his fellow panelists, attorney Jon Simson, and Michael Drexler of BMI, as well as moderator/attorney Gary Greenstein, for what he saw as unjust and unfair practices in the legal battles that have surrounded the shutdown of services like MegaUpload.
"Anyone who cares about freedom - anyone who cares about due process - should be very concerned about MegaUpload," Robinson said, claiming that the government went after the service in an unjust way.
When Simson (of Lommen Abdo) replied that it was a just case -- "organized crime," he called it - Robertson scoffed. "[Read the case] and replace 'MegaUpload' with 'YouTube'," he said, arguing that the mainstream, Google-owned video service betrayed the same laws and hasn't been attacked for it. "The notion that there was racketeering or fraud [at MegaUpload] - that's ridiculous."
The panel occasionally took a turn to the legalese, with Greenstein (of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati) mentioning specific cases and their statutes and Drexler explaining the rights of copyright holder in detail. Simson brought up a point about artists wanting to get paid for having their work copied to the cloud with an example that will ring true to any music fan who lived through a pre-MP3 world: "Any of us who's ever ripped [a large library of] CD's - that's a massive amount of work," he said. "I think you'd pay for that - and rightly so, the owners of the copyrights want to be paid for that."
Robertson's arguments, though, dominated the room, whether he was claiming that the plaintiffs in his case had lied to the court about the availability of free music or that YouTube's advertising-and-payment model was consciously illegal.
However, Drexler got the last - and best laugh. After one particularly paranoid rant, the attorney quipped to Robinson: "Do you have a panic room in your house - just in case?"