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Server firm seeks to finally delete the old MegaUpload files

By | Published on Tuesday 18 August 2015


So, as I’m sure you all remember with some precision, back in 2012 when the US government raided server facilities used by controversial file-transfer service MegaUpload, taking the entire operation offline, a multitude of users suddenly lost access to the content they had been diligently storing on the digital locker platform.

Now, a sizable portion of that content was music and movies said users had acquired, uploaded and/or shared without permission from relevant copyright owners – which is why the music and movie industries had done so much to persuade the US authorities to tackle the MegaUpload company – and the record labels, movie studios and American feds would just find some polite way of saying “fuck you” to any user complaining about losing access to such files.

But then some MegaUpload customers were using the digital locker to store, distribute and share their own content, where no copyright infringement was occurring, and they too lost access to their files without warning. And unfortunately the record labels, movie studios and American feds have delivered something of a ‘fuck you’ to those users too.

There was much talk early on about how those users might be reconnected with their content. And when one affected user went legal to reclaim his lost files, the judge hearing the case was sympathetic, but the US authorities just stressed that MegaUpload’s terms and conditions told users to make sure they kept local back-ups of anything they uploaded to the platform.

Meanwhile legal reps for Hollywood said that they didn’t object to such legit users getting their stuff back, but didn’t want the old MegaUpload servers just switched back on, because then all the infringing users could grab back their content too.

But neither the authorities nor the content industries were keen on the idea that some of the money seized when MegaUpload was shut down be used to pay for some sort of organised redistribution of just the legit lost content, the labels and studios wanting that cash for damages if their civil action against the former file storage company ever gets to court.

Aside from the irritation of being cut off from their content, the big fear for the legit former customers of MegaUpload was that their files would be deleted altogether. Because the server companies previously used by the digital locker company were no longer being paid, and would therefore want to repurpose the servers that previously hosted the MegaUpload service. And indeed, in 2013 it emerged that a Dutch server company that also hosted files for MegaUpload had already deleted the content that the firm’s former users had uploaded to its machines.

But the server company used by MegaUpload that got the most attention from the start was US-based Carpathia Hosting. It initially made some commitments to protect former users’ files, but then started to get understandably tetchy as the legal case against the now defunct digital locker company moved forward at a snail’s pace, while it was sitting on a warehouse full of servers it could no longer use. The firm said at one point that just storing all the kit was costing $9000 a day, though the servers have since been moved to a new facility reducing the costs to just under $6000 a month. Though, that’s still quite an expense.

And now, three and half years on from the MegaUpload shutdown, Carpathia Hosting has a new owner, and it wants to put to an end this inconvenience by finally wiping clean those servers, allowing them to be put back to money-generating use.

So the server firm has gone to court to ask for permission to do just that. New owners QTS argue that US authorities haven’t visited the old MegaUpload servers in ages, and seemingly have all the evidence they need for their criminal case against the former MegaUpload management, including founder Kim Dotcom.

Says QTS in its legal filing: “As the successor-in-interest to Carpathia, QTS now requests judicial relief from the physical and financial burden of storing and maintaining the 1103 computer servers at issue. As the servers have not been used for the purposes of any litigation since the filing of Carpathia’s motion for protective order on March 20, 2012, QTS seeks an order from the court allowing for disposition of the servers and data”.

Legal reps for the former MegaUpload bosses, and Dotcom, oppose the suggestion those servers now be wiped, and will try to stop any court order allowing such a thing from being issued. Dotcom himself told Torrentfreak last week: “Obviously we will try to keep the data safe. Not only because it contains important evidence but also because we want to return the digital property to millions of Megaupload users”.

We now await the judge’s decision on all this.

Though, as noted before, this is another lost opportunity for the big copyright companies to boost the credibility of copyright law, in that the labels and studios could have intervened here to help save the copyright work of those caught in the crossfire of the entertainment industry’s war with Dotcom et al. Because, by allowing the work of bedroom copyright owners to be deleted, it frames this dispute not as copyright creators v copyright infringers, but as big entertainment corporations v the world. And so the PR nightmare continues.