The US government has been ordered by a New Zealand High Court judge to immediately prepare to copy the 150 terabytes worth of data held on Megaupload servers seized by the FBI in order to turn it over to indicted founder Kim Dotcom.
Justice Winkelmann’s order doesn’t necessarily mean that the data will be handed over to Dotcom and his associates, however, as this is subject to further legal wrangling in a later two-day hearing.
An earlier order by Judge David Harvey gave the United States 21 days to provide Dotcom’s New Zealand legal team with information relevant to the extradition case it holds, including e-mails and bank account details.
Much of the data was seized in January from 130 computers and storage devices captured in the dawn raid on Dotcom’s house in Coatesville, north of Auckland. Though the New Zealand court ordered that the items not leave the country until non-relevant portions were returned, the FBI made a copy of the data and FedExed it out of the country, arguing afterward that the copying was permitted.
NZ Crown lawyers acting for the United States are resisting the order and have applied for a judicial review of it on the grounds that the District Court could not make such a ruling under the country’s Extradition Act. The US government has also said it is not able to disclose all the information ordered within 21 days.
Included in the 150 terabytes of data are over 10 million intercepted emails and “voluminous financial records” that were obtained from different countries, not just the data seized from Dotcom’s house.
According to an affidavit by FBI agent Michael Postin, copying just 29 terabytes had taken the agency 10 days. Postin said that copying all the data could take two and a half months. Even then, some of the data could not be copied as it is encrypted, Postin stated.
Dismissing the FBI’s arguments, Justice Winkelmann nevertheless ordered the US authorities to start making copies of the information, as she says they have “ample means to do the work” and that expense to do so must be dwarfed by the other costs of an investigative and prosecutorial operation like this.
If Dotcom were extradited to the United States, the copying work won’t have been a waste of time, Justice Winkelmann added.
Earlier this week, the US Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, Neil MacBride, filed papers asking for Dotcom’s request to dismiss criminal copyright be denied.
MacBride says the plea to drop the charges is a waste of court time and resources, and premature.