Digital Legal MegaUpload Timeline

MPAA files court papers about Mega servers

By | Published on Tuesday 3 April 2012


The Motion Picture Association Of America has submitted papers to the US courts regards the status of the servers that contain data from the now defunct MegaUpload venture, urging judges to not let the hardware fall back into the hands of the Mega companies.

As previously reported, when the US authorities swooped on the Mega empire back in January, securing the arrests of four of the company’s bosses in New Zealand, they also took servers hosting the various Mega websites offline. Since then those servers, actually owned by two hosting companies, and in particular Carpathia Hosting, have sat idle and unusable.

Prosecutors say they have taken all the evidence they need off the servers for the criminal case against the Mega executives, but Carpathia has so far not deleted any of the data, aware that lawyers for both the Mega defendants and the MPAA are still keen to have access, as are the former customers of MegaUpload who lost access to any legitimate content they had stored in a cloud-locker rented from the company when the authorities swooped.

Holding on to all that data is an expensive matter for Carpathia though, and with Mega’s assets frozen, the rogue file-storage company can no longer pay. Needless to say, the server firm would like to either wipe the servers previously used by Mega and put them to other use, or for some of Mega’s funds to be unfrozen so rental fees can be paid, or to sell the servers to another party, so they can buy new hardware and redeploy the floor-space currently occupied by Mega’s server farm (actually, Carpathia is due to give up one storage facility anyway, and is facing the prospect of having to move all of Mega’s redundant servers to a new site).

Seemingly one proposal that has been floated is that the Mega enterprise buys the servers, allows former customers to access any legitimate data, pulls some of that content off in order to prove in court that MegaUpload had legitimate uses, and then oversees the wiping of the machines. It’s not clear whether the Mega company’s funds would need to be unfrozen to enable that to happen, though it’s thought that the digital business’s lawyers would take responsibility for the process.

However, in its filing yesterday, the MPAA said it strongly opposed that suggestion, fearing that if anyone linked to the Mega empire gets physical access to the servers, they could move them outside the US and reconnect them to the internet, allowing the company to restart its business distributing unlicensed music, movie and TV content. Such an audacious move on the Mega company’s part seems unlikely, especially while the firm’s executives face criminal proceedings in the US, but theoretically it would be possible.

In its court filing this week, the MPAA wrote: “A sale or transfer of the servers to MegaUpload (or any of the defendants) would raise a significant risk that MegaUpload will simply ship the servers, hard drives or other equipment – and all of the infringing content they contain – to a foreign jurisdiction and relaunch the infringing MegaUpload service, which would result in untold further infringements of the MPAA members’ copyrighted works. If so, the renewed criminal enterprise might be beyond any effective legal remedy”.

The film industry organisation, which doesn’t really want the Mega servers to be wiped either, said it would support ownership of the servers being transferred to the federal government, and then a managed process to give former Mega customers access to their files, but only once any unlicensed content – ie that belonging to its members – had been removed. Given the federal government has so far shown no interest in getting involved in the tricky matter of what to do with the old Mega data, expecting it to now take on such a task (which would prove incredibly expensive and time consuming, if not impossible), especially when Carpathia will want compensating for the hardware, seems optimistic.

Elsewhere in Mega news, back in New Zealand, as expected, a judge has relaxed the bail conditions of the four men facing extradition to the US to face charges relating to their role in running the company. In particular all four, including founder Kim ‘Dotcom’ Schmitz, will be allowed to access the internet for the first time since their arrests in January. Schmitz will also be allowed to use a swimming pool on the estate where he is living and to travel to Auckland to finish off his debut album at Neil Finn’s studios. Prosecutors only actually objected to the latter, fearing that having Schmitz moving around too much could make any attempt by him to flee the country easier.