Technologist - The FindLaw Legal Technology Blog

Megaupload Data Trapped on Servers for Five Years

Kyle Goodwin, a videographer of high school sports, got T-boned along the information super highway.

He was stopped at an information intersection when a reckless driver rear-ended him and sent him helplessly into internet traffic. A crossing vehicle smashed into him and there he sat -- or at least his video information sat -- stuck in a third-party server.

Unfortunately, it's been five years and his digital videos are still trapped in the same place. In internet years, that is like five lifetimes.

Stuck on the Information Super Highway

Fortunately, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has come to extract Goodwin from the ill-fated pile-up. The EFF has filed a petition in a federal appeals court, demanding that a trial judge do something about the problem.

"We've been asking the court for help since 2012," said EFF attorney Mitch Stolz. "It's deeply unfair for him to still be in limbo after all this time."

The problem started when the federal government went after Kim Dotcom, the founder of online storage service Megaupload. Prosecutors accused Dotcom, who used Carpathia Hosting services, of criminal copyright infringement and other crimes.

At the same time, Goodwin was using Megaupload to store digital videos he had made of high school sports. When the government seized the Carpathia servers, Goodwin's data got caught in the middle.

"Got to Be Some Way Outta Here"

Stolz, who filed his petition with the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, has asked the court to issue a writ of mandamus. The petition says Goodwin repeatedly asked the trial court to resolve the issue, but the judge has not ruled on his requests.

The government has washed its hands of the problem, pointing instead to the hosting service. But Carpathia powered down its servers, which another company later acquired. That company, QTS Realty Trust, won't release the data without a court order or payment for years of storage.

Corynne McSherry, legal director for EFF, said it is an important case because similar problems are bound to come up as cloud-computing becomes more popular. She said the government should not have hijacked Goodwin's digital property.

"If the government takes over your bank, it doesn't get to keep the family jewels you stored in the vault," she said. "There's a process for you to get your stuff back, and you have a right to the same protection for your data."

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