Many Megaupload files belong to US gov users, Dotcom says
- By Kevin McCaney
- Mar 13, 2012
Lawyers for the shut-down file-sharing site Megaupload are still trying to make a deal with the government so they can return legitimate files to their owners, which apparently include U.S. government officials.
Millions of files hosted on the site’s servers have been in limbo since Jan. 19, when the FBI closed down the site and arrested several of its principals on copyright infringement, money laundering and racketeering charges. The question has been whether the files would be returned to their owners or deleted.
Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom, recently released on bail, told TorrentFreak that some of those files belong to government officials.
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“Guess what – we found a large number of Mega accounts from U.S. government officials, including the Department of Justice and the U.S. Senate,” Dotcom told TorrentFreak. He didn't offer any specifics, however.
Dotcom said Megaupload’s lawyers have been working with the Justice Department on ways to grant account-holders temporary access to their files.
The file-sharing and hosting site has said it had more than 150 million registered users and got about 50 million visitors a day. And although Dotcom and six others are charged with using the site to profit from pirated music and videos, many, if not most, of the account holders and files passing through the site are legitimate.
But whether they would be returned has been up in the air.
Ten days after the arrests, prosecutors said they had the files they needed for their investigation and told the two Washington, D.C.-area data centers hosting the files that they could begin deleting them Feb. 2. Lawyers for Megaupload got a reprieve Jan. 30, when the data centers — Carpathia Hosting in Virginia and Cogent Communications in D.C. — agreed to hold onto the files temporarily.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation and Carpathia have established a website, megaretrieval.com, to assist account holders who want to retrieve their files, although they still need Justice’s OK. Carpathia hosts Megaupload files, but says it doesn’t have access to them.
The fate of the files has given rise to concerns about the safety of files stored in the cloud, and whether they can be seized or lost when others using the same cloud violate the law. A Justice spokesperson has pointed out that account holders were warned in Megaupload’s terms of service agreement to make copies of their files, and that the site is primarily for sharing rather than storing files.
The Megaupload case also has illustrated the ongoing debate over antipiracy efforts and their potential impact on Internet freedoms. The arrests came a day after a widespread, and successful, online protest over proposed antipiracy measures in Congress.
The Stop Online Piracy Act in the House and the Protect Intellectual Property Act in the Senate were designed to thwart the kind of piracy Megaupload’s leaders are accused of. But opponents objected to some of their provisions, particularly those that would require Internet service providers and search engines to block such sites or redirect traffic away from them, saying those provisions could cripple sites that use shared or user-generated content while also hindering efforts to secure the Internet’s Domain Name System.
Those bills were largely abandoned after thousands of websites and blogs went dark in protest Jan. 18, but they have remained a rallying cry for those worried about Internet crackdowns.
After Megaupload was shut down, the hacker group Anonymous attacked the websites of the Justice Department, FBI and several entertainment industry organizations, and, in the group’s statements on the attacks, lumped the arrests with SOPA and PIPA.
Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.