Commentary

Megaupload Users Might Lose Files Forever

The federal government's recent indictment of Megaupload executives for copyright infringement has left millions of people who stored photos or documents on the service in limbo.

Earlier this month, the government took down the company's site, seized its assets, and arranged for several executives to be arrested in New Zealand (where they now await extradition hearings). Among the many questions raised by the enforcement action is whether Megaupload's millions of users -- including many people who uploaded legitimate content that doesn't infringe on copyright -- will be able to retrieve their data.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Prabhu said Friday in court papers that two hosting companies Megaupload worked with -- Carpathia Hosting and Cogent Communications -- are poised to delete Megaupload files. “Should the defendants wish to obtain independent access to the Mega Servers, or coordinate third-party access to data housed on Mega Servers, that issue must be resolved directly with Cogent or Carpathia,” the letter states.

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The letter says that the file purge could start as early as this Thursday, but Megaupload attorney Ira Rothken tells MediaPost that the hosting companies agreed today to preserve data for at least two weeks, giving all parties a chance to sort out the issues.

For its part, Carpathia said today that it “has no mechanism for returning any content” to Megaupload's users.

Rothken adds that Megaupload isn't in a position to pay bandwidth and storage fees because its assets were frozen. Those fees often ran in the millions each month, he says.

The defense attorney also points out that destroying the files could hurt the cyberlocker service's chance for a fair trial. “It's absolutely important, relevant evidence,” he says. “Megaupload would like all of the data preserved."

Indeed, it should be obvious that the Megaupload should have at least as much right to access the files, and enter portions into evidence, as the prosecution. After all, the data in the servers could show that many millions of people used the site for legitimate means -- which, if nothing else, would help undermine the government's theory that the site's “primary purpose” was to facilitate copyright infringement.

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