April 13th, 2012, 21:47 PM
Fate of data held by Megaupload up in the air
It's a cache of data roughly equivalent to half of the Library of Congress and nobody quite knows what to do with it.
Tens of millions of digital files kept on Megaupload.com went dark earlier this year. Megaupload was a cyberlocker of sorts, a service that offered individuals and businesses storage space for digital files. But in January, the federal government seized most of the company's assets and charged its founders with running a criminal enterprise designed to facilitate the illegal sharing of copyright-protected movies, music and TV shows.
A hearing Friday in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va. on what should be done with the data suggests just how intractable the problem is. Five different parties — including the federal government and the Motion Picture Association of America — weighed in with disparate views on what should happen. U.S. District Judge Liam O'Grady ordered the parties to negotiate over the next two weeks and come up with a solution acceptable to all sides.
Currently the data — 25 million gigabytes' worth — sits on 1,100 powered-down servers stored in a climate-controlled warehouse in Harrisonburg, Va. The company that leased the servers to Megaupload, Dulles, Va.-based Carpathia Hosting, asked the court for guidance on what it should do. Megaupload had its assets seized and is no longer paying for the servers' upkeep, so Carpathia is paying thousands of dollars a day just to store the machines. They are also losing revenue that would be available if it erased the data and repurposed the servers for other uses. But Carpathia said it's reluctant to erase data that may serve as evidence in a criminal case.
The federal government and the MPAA contend the vast majority of the data on those servers is illegally pirated content, and that the people who stored those files with Megaupload should not get access to them.
But some of the people and small businesses that used Megaupload had perfectly legitimate files and did nothing wrong. Internet advocates, including the San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation, say a mechanism should be put in place so those users can get their data back.