If you’ve got files stored on Megaupload and you haven’t got a back-up, you need to cross your fingers. The companies that physically host the files have agreed to keep them online for two more weeks, but after that they could start hitting delete.
News of an imminent deletion came last Friday in a court filing by lawyers for the men arrested in the Megaupload raids, including company chief Kim Dotcom.
The threat to delete files had nothing to do with US government investigators or prosecutors. In fact they’ve already pointed out that their search warrant simply allowed the to copy the files they needed as evidence and, although they’ve seized control of the domain names, they no longer need nor have any rights to access the uploaded files.
The problem is that officials have also seized control of Megaupload’s bank account. That means Carpathia and Cogent, the two hosting companies that provided the physical space for the files aren’t getting paid. And when you’re using as much space as Megaupload was, your hosts expect to get paid large amounts, often, and on time.
Originally the firms were planning to beginning wiping files this coming Thursday (2 February.) Megaupload’s lawyer Ira Rothken complained to the court that this would not only be a major blow for anyone who’d used the site for legitimate purposes such as online backup or sharing personal files and documents, but that it could harm the defense case.
The two companies have now agreed to hold on to the data for at least two weeks and give the lawyers time to sort out a solution. One major problem is that Carpathia at least says it has no way to access the files it hosts or to return them to their original uploaders. Of course, those uploaders are unable to access the files themselves right now because Megaupload is shut.
It’s one hell of a legal and practical mess. The hosting firms quite understandably will want to be paid, though nobody seems to have the ability or willingness to pay them. The government claims it has no authority to access the files. And the seemingly obvious solution of allowing the site be re-opened for a few days to allow users to download their original files raises legal questions about those files that do infringe copyright: given the nature of the case, can the government really authorize users to be allowed to download them.
However, short of the completely impractical option of somebody checking every file in the next couple of weeks and picking out the legal ones, it looks like a mass deletion is still the only logical outcome. And that’s already threatening to lead to a court case in itself with legitimate users wanting compensation from theUSgovernment.