Megaupload, the online file-locker service that offered individuals and businesses storage space for digital files, was shut down earlier this year. The US Federal Government raided the facility and seized most of the company's assets, while charging the founders with a spate of criminal offenses. The allegations included facilitating of illegal sharing of copyright-protected movies, music and TV shows.
The digital files stored on 1,100 powered-down servers are equivalent to some 25 million GB of data and are presently secured in a climate-controlled warehouse in Harrisonburg. This large volume of data roughly translates to half of the Library of Congress and nobody knows what to do with it. Consequently, a hearing was scheduled in a US District Court on Friday in Alexandria, Virginia, to decide on the data's fate.
Five independent parties, including the government and the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) discussed their differing views on impending action to resolve the crisis of distributing data to authorized individuals and business enterprises. US District Judge Liam O'Grady instructed the parties to negotiate over the next two weeks and arrive at a solution viable to all sides. Meanwhile, the company that leased the servers to Megaupload on a contract basis - Dulles, a Virginia-based Carpathia Hosting, sought court guidance for the next step.
Megaupload is unable to pay for the servers' maintenance as all its assets have been seized. So, its leasing company, Carpathia, is paying thousands of dollars a day just to store the machines and secure the data in it. The company is unable to further repurpose any of its servers for other uses, as the machines cannot be erased for they contain critical data that might serve as evidence in a criminal case.
MPAA and the authorities contend that most of the data on the seized server machines is pirated content and that people who uploaded such data over Megaupload should be locked out of access. However, some of the users and small scale businesses made only legitimate file transactions to store their personal or work-related files and have not committed any offense whatsoever. Supporting the cause of innocent users and affiliated Megaupload clients, several Internet advocates and the San-Francisco based Electronic Frontier Foundation suggest a proper mechanism should be put in place to ensure legitimate users get their data back.
According to Business Week, Julie Samuels, an attorney with the foundation, suggests the government is liable to take the burden of creating and paying for such a mechanism, as it is deemed responsible for prosecuting Megaupload and shutting down the entire site that resulted in the ensuing crisis.