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Entertainment industry says it’ll pay to rescue former MegaUpload data at risk

By | Published on Thursday 16 March 2017


Trade bodies for the US music and movie industries have told the American court overseeing the long-running MegaUpload case that they’ll pay to rescue data that previously sat on the now long defunct digital locker’s platform.

As previously reported, ever since the US authorities took MegaUpload offline in 2012 there has been much debate as to what should happen to the servers the company rented from various suppliers around the world; or at least those that haven’t already been wiped.

The data on those servers is of interest to the music and movie companies, which reckon they need it as evidence for their civil litigation against the old MegaUpload company. The former MegaUpload management, meanwhile, want the data as evidence for their defence to both the civil and criminal proceedings they are facing. Plus there are those former MegaUpload customers who used the file-storage firm to legitimately store their own original content who would quite like to get their files back.

Last year one of the US companies that previously rented server space to MegaUpload – Cogent – said that some of the hard drives on which the ex-firm’s data had been stored following the 2012 shutdown were now unreadable simply because they hadn’t been used in such a long time. In a legal filing, MegaUpload itself said it had been told that “without the assistance of a computer forensic expert … Cogent cannot confirm that the data remains extant and uncorrupted”.

Whenever the former MegaUpload data comes up, the big question is who should pay for it all to be preserved. The American authorities have generally washed their hands of it all, saying they grabbed enough data in 2012 to use as evidence in their criminal case against Kim Dotcom and the other former MegaUpload chiefs.

Reps for MegaUpload have suggested that it could cover the costs if the authorities would just unfreeze some of the former company’s assets. But the music and movie industries – who want those assets to remain nicely frozen so they can be used to pay damages should the copyright owners win the civil litigation against Dotcom et al down the line – have generally objected to that proposal.

To that end the Motion Picture Association Of America and the Recording Industry Association Of America have now put their own proposal to a federal court in Virginia for having some experts check out and try to rescue the Cogent data. They want a company called DriveSavers to do the work. It will try to rescue the data and, if it succeeds, will return it to Cogent for storage without keeping any copies for itself.

Crucially, the MPAA and RIAA says that – if the court goes with their plan – they’ll pay DriveSavers’ bills. Which all sounds pretty straightforward. Though there remains a dispute over whether or not MegaUpload should ultimately get access to any rescued data, which could further delay things.

Aware of that – and that any further delays could reduce the chances of DriveSavers being able to rescue the Cogent data – the entertainment industry trade bodies wrote in their latest court submission: “As plaintiffs have repeatedly maintained, the only pressing issue for the court now is the recovery and preservation of the evidence on the Cogent drives”.

It adds that “questions of who may subsequently access that data, and under what circumstances, remain contested”, but, the trade groups argue, that “can be addressed at a later date. Otherwise, potentially critical data will remain at risk of disappearance while the parties continue to argue over an issue as to which no negotiated resolution is possible”.