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Fate of punters' Megaupload files to be thrashed out in court

25PB of data could head to The Great Recycling Bin In The Sky

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A court in the US could decide today whether or not to dump the files of Megaupload users, seized in the case against founder Kim Dotcom.

Regular Joes who stored their legal files with Megaupload have been worried that their data will just get deleted since the government has gotten the evidence it needs from the site's servers and hosting company Carpathia doesn't want to keep paying for storing the information.

One of these users, Kyle Goodwin, has filed with the court in his own right and for others in his situation to be allowed some lawful system of getting their files back.

Goodwin says he backed up files for his online business, reporting on local high school sporting events in Ohio, with Megaupload. When his hard drive crashed, says Goodwin, he lost it all.

"As a result, since January 19, 2012, Mr Goodwin has not been able to access the files he needs to conduct his business - ie, his lawful property - despite the fact that those files are sitting on Carpathia’s servers," the filing said.

The US government said back in January that it had finished searching through Megaupload's servers, which were hosted by Carpathia Hosting and Cogent Communications in Virginia. Since Uncle Sam doesn't want them anymore, control was passed back to the hosting firms, which are now being bombarded from all sides by folks who want the data kept.

Megaupload says it wants the info to support its defence and to return it to customers; the US has finished looking through it but doesn't want Megaupload to have it; and the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) wants it so it can pursue civil claims against Megaupload and others over purportedly pirated movies.

On top of all that, digital rights group the Electronic Frontier Foundation has written to the court on behalf of individuals who have data on the servers to say that their legal, non-infringing material shouldn't just be dumped.

"In addition to the alleged illegal activity by some users of Megaupload, there were also innocent customers that used the service to store lawful material – users who have been blocked from accessing their data for months," the EFF said on its website. "At Friday's hearing, EFF Staff Attorney Julie Samuels will argue that Megaupload's customers deserve a court-approved procedure to retrieve their property before it's deleted."

The problem for the hosting firms is that they have no interest in the data and because all Megaupload's assets have been frozen by the government, they're not getting paid to store it.

Carpathia has applied to the court for an order "to protect it from undue expense and burden resulting from the continued storage of 1,103 computer servers containing 25 petabytes of data", saying that the storage has cost around $9,000 a day since late January.

But so far, both Carpathia and Cogent are hanging onto the data.

The MPAA doesn't want anything off the Megaupload servers going to anyone, to "prevent further infringing distribution of their copyrighted works". It argues that if the servers are given back to Megaupload, the site could just pack up and move out of US jurisdiction and start its alleged naughty behaviour again.

The association also says that if Carpathia hands over any info to anyone, it could be in copyright violation as well because it would in essence be distributing pirated copies.

The court arguments are due to start in Virginia today at 9am local time (2pm GMT). ®

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