A federal judge indicated at a hearing on Friday that he opposes destruction of files that users uploaded to the digital storage company Megaupload.
But the judge's remarks at the hearing left many questions unanswered -- including who will pay to store the data, and whether users will be able to retrieve their files in the near future.
U.S. District Court Judge Liam O'Grady, who is presiding over the criminal prosecution against Megaupload's executives, ordered lawyers for all parties -- the government, Megaupload, a representative for users, and Carpathia Hosting, which is storing the data, to meet with a magistrate judge within two weeks to work out the logistics.
Ira Rothken, a lawyer representing Megaupload, said the company was satisfied with the outcome of the hearing. "The court endorsed Megaupload's request that the data be preserved," he says.
Megaupload was shut down and its assets frozen in January, when its founder and seven executives were indicted for criminal copyright infringement. They are currently free on bail in New Zealand, where they ae fighting extradition.
Without access to its bank accounts, Megaupload stopped paying storage fees, prompting the host company Carpathia to ask the court for relief. Carpathia said in court papers it was paying $9,000 a week to maintain the files, and asked for permission to delete the files or sell the servers.
But Megaupload's lawyers say the files could help the executives beat the criminal charges by showing that the site had legitimate uses. Federal prosecutors have alleged that the cyberlocker encouraged users to infringe copyright by storing and sharing pirated material. But Megaupload says that preserving the files will help it show that many people stored non-infringing files with the company.
The digital rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation is representing one user, Kyle Goodwin, who is seeking to retrieve data he uploaded to the service. Goodwin, who reports on high school sports in Ohio, stored videos through Megaupload, according to the EFF. Goodwin's own servers crashed recently, leaving him with no files other than those he sent to Megaupload.