Digital Legal MegaUpload Timeline

New court hearing to consider fate of lost MegaUpload data

By | Published on Friday 5 October 2012


A full court hearing is likely to be held to decide the fate of the legitimate data stored on the former MegaUpload servers, which continue to gather dust in a US-based server facility since the controversial file-transfer service was taken offline by the American authorities in January.

As much previously reported, the US authorities shut down the MegaUpload operation at the start of the year amidst allegations the company and its senior management were guilty of copyright infringement, money laundering and racketeering. Efforts to extradite seven Mega execs to the US to face those allegations are ongoing of course. Four of the accused, including MegaUpload founder Kim ‘Dotcom’ Schmitz are currently living in New Zealand.

When the US switched off the MegaUpload servers, while much of the data stored on them was copyright infringing music and movie content, some of it was files belonging to the digital firm’s customers, who were using MegaUpload as a back up facility. One such legitimate user was Kyle Goodwin, who also lost a local back up of his self-produced sports videos and has been fighting, with the support of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, to regain access to his files on the Mega computers.

Judge Liam O’Grady, who has been overseeing the debate over the lost Mega data, has previously heard evidence from various parties, including Goodwin, legal reps from MegaUpload (who have offered to oversee the return of legit files if funds can be unfrozen to cover the costs of doing so), the Motion Picture Association Of America (which wants the courts to ensure that anyone storing unlicensed content in their Mega locker doesn’t get renewed access to it), one of the server provider Carpathia Hosting (which wants to wipe the former Mega servers but fears civil lawsuits from the likes of Goodwin if it does) and the US Attorney for the Eastern District Of Virginia Neil MacBride (who said that the MegaUpload small print told customers to keep local back ups of their data).

O’Grady hoped the various stakeholders could reach a deal as to how legit data may be returned, but no such deal has been forthcoming, and Goodwin and the EFF have been putting increased pressure on the judge to act. He has now said he needs an ‘evidentiary hearing’ in order to make a ruling on the matter. In court documents, the judge said: “Upon thorough review of the arguments before the court and careful consideration of the applicable law, the court finds that it is unable to reach a conclusion as to this matter without an evidentiary hearing”.

MegaUpload is hoping that it can use that hearing to force reps from the US authorities to give testimonies in court about their investigation into the digital firm and the subsequent shutdown of the Mega operation. Though, of course, any questioning of witnesses will presumably have to be narrowly defined, given that the criminal investigation into MegaUpload itself, and Dotcom and his fellow former Mega execs, is ongoing.

It’s not currently clear what the timeline may be for the new Mega data hearing.

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