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MegaUpload data potentially lost as aging hard drives fail, say lawyers

By | Published on Thursday 19 May 2016


Hey, it’s nearly four and a half years since US authorities took down MegaUpload and began proceedings to extradite key execs, including big boss Kim Dotcom, from New Zealand. And yet still pretty much nothing has happened since then, except for some big legal bills being run up. In fact, everything’s taking so long that the hard drives that hold the defunct website’s old data are now starting to fail.

One of the controversial file-transfer platform’s former hosting companies which was ordered to keep hold of data from the service after it was shutdown has apparently warned that half of the hard drives storing those files are now unreadable.

As previously reported, when the US authorities took MegaUpload offline in 2012 users of the service lost access to files they were storing on the company’s servers without warning. A lot of it was copyright infringing music and movies, but not all of it, and some people lost access to content they themselves had created.

MegaUpload actually rented server space from other companies, which were left with disconnected hard disks full of content after the shutdown, and nobody paying them to continue storing the files those servers contained.

A debate then ensued as to what should happen to those servers, and whether those who had used MegaUpload for legit purposes should and could get their files back. Although the courts were sympathetic with customers caught in the crossfire, the US government, and the music and movie industries which are suing the ex-MegaUpload business, weren’t very helpful when it came to finding a way to reconnect users with their non-infringing content.

Having already got a cross section of data it reckoned supported its case against MegaUpload, the US government hasn’t been especially bothered about working out what to do with the rest of the files held on those servers. While, as well as claiming to want to reunite former users with their lost files, MegaUpload lawyers reckon that the legit data could support the case that the site was a perfectly legal service that some used to transfer illegal files, rather than a hub designed for rampant piracy.

In 2013, it emerged that one of MegaUpload’s old server hosts, Dutch web storage firm Leaseweb, had already wiped the servers it had been renting to Dotcome et al, while US firm Carpathia, which held the bulk of the data, last year requested permission to wipe its servers and put them back into use, after a change of ownership.

Meanwhile, in a new legal filing to the Virginia court overseeing those two civil cases brought against MegaUpload by the music and movie industries, reports TorrentFreak, both sides report that data is potentially being lost at a third hosting company, Cogent, because lack of use is causing hard drives to degrade.

“Recently, the parties have each been advised by Cogent that it has been unable to read eight of the sixteen computer hard drives on which the Megaupload cached data have been stored”, says MegaUpload’s filing. “Without the assistance of a computer forensic expert, however, Cogent cannot confirm that the data remains extant and uncorrupted”.

MegaUpload’s lawyers are asking the court to order the US government to foot the bill for preserving the data, if possible. They state that it has an obligation to do so, in order to prove that evidence pulled off the servers to support the case against MegaUpload was not cherry-picked and represents a fair picture of what was being stored.

As well as claiming that it is the US government’s responsibility to pay for this, the lawyers also note that the freezing of assets while the case against MegaUpload’s execs continues means that they cannot afford to do it themselves.

The court is yet to issue a ruling.