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The battle for lost MegaUpload data goes to the Fourth Circuit

By | Published on Thursday 27 April 2017

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So, this one’s still rumbling on. Kyle Goodwin, the sporty filmmaker who lost access to his archive of self-filmed sports videos when MegaUpload was shut down in 2012, has gone back to court yet again in a bid to get his content back.

As much previously reported, when the US authorities shut down the often controversial file-transfer platform MegaUpload in 2012 on copyright grounds, as well as cutting off access to mountains of pirated material, some people lost access to the files they legitimately stored on the now defunct company’s servers.

In the main the American authorities have shown little concern over those caught in the crossfire during their big assault on MegaUpload, noting that the file-transfer firm’s small print urged users to keep local back-ups of their files.

The music and movie industries – while not objecting to the likes of Goodwin getting their content back – hindered that process by opposing a temporary reconnection shortly after shutdown. Since then they’ve done little to help Goodwin, despite him being a fellow copyright owner, and the fact such contempt only further damages the reputation of big rights owners like the Hollywood film studios and major record companies.

As the years have gone by, it gets ever harder for the likes of Goodwin to get their content back, as the servers once rented by MegaUpload get stacked in warehouses and gather dust. At best. Some have been wiped by their owners, while others may have become corrupted simply due to not being used in such a long time.

For their part, the courts have been much more sympathetic to Goodwin; not that that has helped. Backed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, he has now taken his case to the Fourth Circuit appeals court, asking judges there to intervene.

According to Torrentfreak, EFF’s Senior Staff Attorney Mitch Stoltz says: “Mr Goodwin, and many others, used MegaUpload to store legal files, and we’ve been asking the court for help since 2012. It’s deeply unfair for him to still be in limbo after all this time. The legal system must step in and create a pathway for law-abiding users to get their data back”.

Goodwin’s lawyers want the Fourth Circuit to issue a ‘writ of mandamus’, which isn’t quite as exotic as it sounds, and is basically a superior court telling a subordinate court or government department to bloody well do their job properly. Because the government’s actions to date on this – the EFF’s lawyers add – is damn unconstitutional.

“The seizure and continued denial of access also violates Mr Goodwin’s constitutional rights”, says the new court submission. “Under the Fourth and Fifth Amendments, the government was obligated to execute the searches and seizures in a manner that reasonably protected the rights of third parties to access and retrieval”.

Noting that this case sets something of a precedent, given how common it is becoming for people to store digital content online, EFF’s Legal Director Corynne McSherry added: “We’re likely to see even more cases like this as cloud computing becomes increasingly popular. If the government takes over your bank, it doesn’t get to keep the family jewels you stored in the vault. 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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