Megaupload User Demands Return of Seized Content

An Ohio man is asking a federal judge to preserve data of the 66.6 million users of Megaupload, the file-sharing service that was shuttered in January following federal criminal copyright-infringement indictments that targeted its operators.

Represented by civil rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation, Kyle Goodwin wants U.S. District Judge Liam O’Grady, the judge overseeing the Megaupload prosecution, to order the preservation of the 25 petabytes of data the authorities seized in January. Goodwin, the operator of OhioSportsNet, which films and streams high school sports, wants to access his copyrighted footage that he stored on the file-sharing network. His hard drive crashed days before the government shuttered the site Jan. 19.

“What is clear is that Mr. Goodwin, the rightful owner of the data he stored on Megaupload, has been denied access to his property. It is also clear that this court has equitable power to fashion a remedy to make Mr. Goodwin — an innocent third party — whole again,” the group wrote the judge in a Friday legal filing.

The legal filing, the first representing a Megaupload customer, follows a similar move by the Motion Picture Association of America, whose desire to save the data is very different from Goodwin’s. Last week, it asked Carpathia, Megaupload’s Virginia-based server host, to retain the Megaupload data, which includes account information for Megaupload’s millions of users. The MPAA said it wants that data preserved because it might sue Megaupload and other companies for allegedly contributing to copyright infringement.

Megaupload allowed users to upload large files and share them with others, but the feds and Hollywood allege the service was used almost exclusively for sharing copyright material — which Megaupload denies.

A hearing on the data issue is set for next month.

Federal authorities have said they have copied some, but not all of the Megaupload data, and said Carpathia could delete the 25 million gigabytes of Megaupload data it is hosting.

Carpathia said it is spending $9,000 daily to retain the data, and is demanding that Judge O’Grady relieve it of that burden. Megaupload, meanwhile, wants the government to free up some of the millions in dollars of seized Megaupload assets to be released to pay Carpathia to retain the data for its defense and possibly to return data to its customers.

The criminal prosecution of Megaupload targets seven individuals connected to the Hong Kong-based file-sharing site, including founder Kim Dotcom. They were indicted in January on a variety of charges, including criminal copyright infringement and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

Five of the members of what the authorities called a 5-year-old “racketeering conspiracy” have been arrested in New Zealand, pending possible extradition to the United States.

The government said the site, which generated hundreds of millions in user fees and advertising, facilitated copyright infringement of movies, often before their theatrical release, in addition to music, television programs, electronic books, and business and entertainment software. The government said Megaupload’s “estimated harm” to copyright holders was “well in excess of $500 million.”