In the aftermath of the Megaupload shutdown that unfolded nearly two weeks ago, the story has splintered into a few interesting directions. One of the more controversial issues is the fate of the personal data stored on the now-defunct service's servers.
Yesterday, news broke that the data could be at risk of deletion as early as this week, if Megaupload's former hosting service providers decide to do so. Well, not if the Electronic Frontier Foundation has anything to do with it.
The EFF has joined forces with one of the companies from which Megaupload rented server space to try and figure out the best way forward for users whose content was not infringing on anyone's copyright. MegaRetreival.com was launched today by the organization in conjunction with Carpathia Hosting and is now soliciting feedback from former Megaupload users who feel they were wronged.
For Megaupload Users, an Unclear Way Forward
Exactly how they will manage to resolve the issue is unclear at this early stage, as there are a number of technical and legal hurdles to overcome. A resolution could come in the form of a lawsuit against authorities, as has already been threatened by other groups. Alternatively, it could involve cooperation between the EFF, Megaupload, the hosting service providers and federal authorities, EFF Staff Attorney Julie Samuels told us.
"Right now the possibilities are almost endless," Samuels said. "We are open to anything." Whether legal or more diplomatic, the organization is seeking justice for the Megaupload users who were blocked from accessing their personal files despite not having broken any laws.
The Megaupload saga has put some users in a very weird position. Because the shutdown of the site happened without warning, they had no chance to retrieve any legitimate, non-infringing files they may have been storing there.
Of course, it also meant that people who were using the site for illegal purposes couldn't jump on and download the last season of "The Wire" real quick. Still, there's nothing stopping people from using MediaFire, RapidShare, the Pirate Bay or any number of other sources to grab copyrighted content. The users who kept personal files on Megaupload can't just tap into another service and get access to that content. They are uniquely screwed.
Normally, as Samuels explained, actions like this are taken using civil lawsuits rather than police helicopters and FBI agents. Thus, there's typically time for users to take the necessary precautions to back-up any files they couldn't afford to lose. Putting aside debates about the wisdom of keeping personal files exclusively in the cloud in the first place, the users of Megaupload never had an opportunity to salvage their stuff.
"That's what's really fundamentally troubling here," Samuels said. "People woke up, went to turn on their computer and found that they could not access their accounts."
Like the legal case of Kim Dotcom and his associates, it will be some time before this affair is resolved. For now, the EFF is hoping to open a dialogue with former users of the site and work with all of the parties involved in order to eventually come to a conclusion that works for everyone.