MegaUpload Case: Users Can’t Have Data Back After Being Told They Can

It’s one of the many twists and turns in the MegaUpload case that has us scratching our heads. On the 7th of this month, the MPAA said it was “sympathetic” to legitimate users and that those users can have their data back if they can prove it’s completely non-infringing content. On the 11th, one of those users asked for their data back. the result? The user was turned down.

Note: This is an article I wrote that was published elsewhere first. It has been republished here for archival purposes

In four days, you can get the impression that US authorities are saying two things at once. One the 7th of this month, the MPAA was questioned the MPAA’s sincerity. Fast forward just two days later and now a report has surfaced that suggests that US authorities have, once again, turned down a users request to have the content returned. The response from US authorities was so incoherent, it even made the Wired article hard to follow (which, I should say, takes quite a bit of effort).

The content in question is footage of highschool football. While some would say that the simple solution is to do a local back-up rather than rely on cloud-based services, this particular case features someone who experienced hard drive failure and the only copy that’s available is what was on the MegaUpload servers. While a perfect storm of unfortunate events, it’s hardly surprising given the popularity of MegaUpload before the server seizures. Someone somewhere along the line was going to find themselves without their property through no fault of their own.

At one point, the US authorities suggested that this particular should be suing MegaUpload instead of them. That’s a very puzzling comment because, to my knowledge, the general rule of litigation is that the person or organization being litigated has to have caused you harm in some way or another. In this case, I really don’t see how MegaUpload is at fault for any loss of data when it’s the the US government (ala FBI) that caused the loss in data. When MegaUpload took down infringing content at the request of rightsholders, I can’t even stretch my own imagination to find some way of blaming MegaUpload for the loss of data.

If you read further down the Wired article, you’d also get the tidbit:

Though the authorities seized 25 petabytes of data, that was not all of Megaupload’s data. Megaupload rented more than 1,100 servers from hosting provider Carpathia — though the servers are of little use after the feds seized all of Megaupload’s domain names. The government says it doesn’t care what happens to the rest of the data, and has said Carpathia can erase it if it chooses.

“The government also does not oppose access by Kyle Goodwin to the 1,103 servers previously leased by Megaupload. But access is not the issue — if it was, Mr. Goodwin could simply hire a forensic expert to retrieve what he claims is his property and reimburse Carpathia for its associated costs,” the government wrote in a brief filing Friday. “The issue is that the process of identifying, copying, and returning Mr. Goodwin’s data will be inordinately expensive, and Mr. Goodwin wants the government, or Megaupload, or Carpathia, or anyone other than himself, to bear the cost.”

What wouldn’t surprise me is that even if Mr. Goodwin did hire his own forensic expert and forked over the cash to get his content back (which I think is absurd), what are the chances that the government says that it’s an active investigation still and denies him access to the content anyway? Of course, in a court case that also contained the gem of the US government trying to pick and choose which court order to follow, there are fewer and fewer things that are really surprising in this case now.

(Via Chris Hedgecock)

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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