Megaupload Gov't Shutdown Results in Mega Data Wipe

Dennis Faas's picture

Files on Megaupload, the controversial file-sharing site now under US government control, could be deleted this Thursday (February 2nd). That's caused concern amongst both former owners and for people who used the site for legitimate purposes.

The proposed deletions won't come though a court order, but rather as an indirect result of the legal crackdown. Megaupload's financial assets have been frozen, meaning the companies it hired to physically host the files are no longer being paid. As a result, they've threatened to begin deleting the files so that they can use the space for other customers.

Legitimate Files to be Considered as Collateral Damage

The US government argues that the deletion of legitimate files isn't its problem.

The search warrant that permitted the site crackdown only gave officials the right to access and copy files from Megaupload to confirm they were indeed infringing copyright.

Officials say that with this process complete, they have neither the right to access the original files, nor the responsibility for maintaining them. (Source:

Ira Rothken, the high-profile lawyer who is leading Megaupload's defense, says the deletion of the files could harm his clients' case. Having access to all the files could help put the infringing files into context by showing the company did also handle many legitimate files.

Users Paid to Upload 'Popular' Files, Usually Pirated

While it's not known how many of Megaupload's 50 million customers used the site for entirely legal purposes, it does appear many had done so. This could involve either simply storing personal files on-line, either as a back-up or to save on disk space, or legally sharing large files and documents with other users. (Source:

As previously reported, the government crackdown on Megaupload was not simply based on it hosting illegal files: it's arguable that this may be legal on a site with user-uploaded content as long as the operators delete infringing files upon request from the relevant rights holders.

Instead, Megaupload is accused of taking two additional steps that crossed a legal line: it allegedly misled rights holders by simply disabling links to pirated material while continuing to hold on to the files, and it paid bonuses to users who uploaded the most popular files, even though it was clear these were almost always pirated material.

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