EFF to federal court: Return MegaUpload data now

The government seized MegaUpload's user data and one former user has run out of patience with negotiations to decide what should be done with it. He wants a federal court to order that his footage be returned.

Greg Sandoval Former Staff writer
Greg Sandoval covers media and digital entertainment for CNET News. Based in New York, Sandoval is a former reporter for The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times. E-mail Greg, or follow him on Twitter at @sandoCNET.
Greg Sandoval
3 min read
The facade of the federal courthouse for the Eastern District of Virginia, the court that is overseeing the MegaUpload case. Greg Sandoval/CNET

The patience of Kyle Goodwin, a former MegaUpload user, has apparently run out.

The videographer, who stored clips of high school sports action at MegaUpload, filed a three-page motion today that asks a federal court in Virginia to figure out a way to return his clips to him.

Julie Samuels, one of the EFF lawyers representing Kyle Goodwin. Greg Sandoval/CNET

Goodwin has waited for the company, the U.S. government, Hollywood film studios, and other interested parties to determine what to do with the data on MegaUpload's servers, which were seized by the United States in January. The district court overseeing the case told everyone with a stake in MegaUpload's data to find a solution amongst themselves, but talks have dragged on for weeks without any kind of resolution.

MegaUpload was one of the Web's most popular cyberlocker services before U.S. authorities shut it down. The U.S. Attorney's office accuses the company of being a front for a massive piracy operation and officials have alleged that the vast majority of data stored at MegaUpload was pirated movies and other media.

In January, at the request of U.S. officials, New Zealand police raided the home of Kim DotCom, MegaUpload's founder, and seized all assets belonging to him and the company. That included more than 1,000 servers. The indictment of MegaUpload has attracted worldwide attention, as critics claim the case is designed to make it appear that operating a cyberlocker is a crime.

According to lawyers from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, who advocate on behalf of tech companies and Web users, Goodwin is just one of the many people who uploaded their legally acquired data but are now without a way to retrieve it.

Returning data to former MegaUpload users "is of paramount importance," EFF wrote to the court, "not just to preserve Mr. Goodwin's rights, but to address the government's apparent disregard for the effects its increasing use of domain and other digital seizure mechanisms may have on the innocent users of cloud computing services."

EFF and Goodwin say that there's been "little progress" in the negotiations over the data as it pertains to the information belonging to third parties. A representative for the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, the office that filed the charges against MegaUpload, declined to comment.

EFF says it wants the court to set a precedent for cyberlocker cases so that the government is discouraged from playing fast and loose with the property of innocent bystanders.

"Given that the use of cloud computing services is already widespread and poised to grow exponentially in the next few years," EFF wrote, "this court should establish procedures to ensure that such innocent users do not become regular collateral damage."

"The government has refused to even consider Mr. Goodwin's proposals" for returning his data to him, EFF said in the court filing.

The government and the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), the trade group for the six major film studios, have told the court that they want to make sure the illegal content on the servers isn't circulated again. MegaUpload's lawyers want a copy of the data so they can mount a proper defense.

Carpathia Hosting, the company that is storing the information now at its own expense, has said costs of maintaining the information are significant and wants some kind of resolution.