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MPAA supports return of lost MegaUpload data – but with proviso that will probably make such a thing impossible

By | Published on Thursday 7 June 2012


The Motion Picture Association Of America has said that it does not have any problem with former MegaUpload customers reclaiming their legitimate files from the now defunct Mega servers, but that it would want assurances that unlicensed content belonging to its members would not be accessible.

As much previously reported, the MegaUpload platform was taken offline without warning by the US authorities in January amidst allegations that the company and its management were guilty of mass copyright infringement, money laundering and racketeering.

While a lot of the content stored on the Mega servers by its customers was unlicensed movies, TV programmes and music files, some utilised the cloud-locker service to store legitimate files they themselves had created, and when the MegaUpload site was switched off they lost access to that content too.

Various affected parties have been trying to retrieve that data, most notably filmmaker Kyle Goodwin, whose case has been backed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation. But the US authorities who shut down MegaUpload have not been especially sympathetic, mainly pointing out that the digital firm’s terms and conditions did not guarantee permanent access to files stored on its servers.

Meanwhile the MPAA has also expressed concerns about the public being given full access to the former Mega servers, even on a temporary basis, and in particular objected to a proposal that lawyers working for the defunct file-transfer company be given access to both seized funds and their client’s switched-off hardware to coordinate the return of lost data.

But the movie industry trade body has now clarified its position, saying it is happy for former Mega customers to be reunited with their lost files, providing any copyright material belonging to its members is first removed. The MPAA was responding to a court submission by Goodwin last week, which called on the federal court of Virginia to address the lost data issue directly after interested parties failed to reach a voluntary arrangement.

According to Torrentfreak, in its latest submission the MPAA writes: “The MPAA members are sympathetic to legitimate users who may have relied on MegaUpload to store their legitimately acquired or created data, although the MegaUpload terms of use clearly disclaimed any guarantee of continued access to uploaded materials”.

Adding that it wouldn’t block moves to reunite former customers with their files in principle, the submission continued “if the court is willing to consider allowing access for users such as Mr Goodwin to allow retrieval of files, it is essential that the mechanism include a procedure that ensures that any materials the users access and copy or download are not files that have been illegally uploaded to their accounts”.

Another proviso for the MPAA is that no former MegaUpload executives be granted access to their former platform, though presumably said execs’ legal representatives would want such access, as those attorneys have already said they need to see those files in order to prepare their clients’ defence. The MPAA also wants unrestricted access for itself to the former Mega servers to prepare its civil action against the former bosses of the MegaUpload business.

Of course a cynic might argue that, while it’s good for the MPAA to, in theory, support the return of legitimate files stored on the MegaUpload platform, its demands that all unlicensed material first be removed possibly makes any such return of data, in reality, impossible, given the scale of operation that would be required to first clean the former Mega servers of copyright infringing files.

However, presumably it would be possible to make it so that former Mega customers could only access the fies they themselves uploaded (ie ban the world at large from accessing files others were sharing), and if that was the case, a cleverer MPAA might support a 48 hours data amnesty, even if that allowed many Mega customers to reclaim illegally obtained movie files, given that one great way for the content industries to win grass roots support regards the importance of copyright is to help the man of the street protect his own intellectual property. But, of course, content industry giants are notoriously not clever when it comes to winning public support on copyright issues.