Megaupload User Data Could Be Deleted by Thursday

Bob Johnson

WASHINGTON — Data from shut down cyberlocker site Megaupload users could start to be deleted by Thursday.

The U.S. Attorney's Office leading the prosecution of Hong Kong-based Megaupload and founder Kim Dotcom, aka Kim Schmitz, and his associates, told the Eastern District of Virginia court on Friday that the outside companies hosting Megaupload data — Carpathia Hosting Inc. and Cogent Communications — might begin deleting data on Feb. 2.

After a multi-country investigation, the U.S. Justice Department and the FBI last week blocked access to the site and charged its operators with running an international organized criminal enterprise allegedly responsible for "massive worldwide online piracy" of numerous types of copyrighted works, including porn.

In a letter to the court, the government said it copied some data from the servers but did not physically take it, and after it has executed its search warrants, it has no right to access the data.

The prosecutors said that the servers (some of which are in Virginia) are controlled by Carpathia and Cogent and issues about the future of the data must be resolved with them.

The government said, "The execution of those search warrants [on the servers] has now been completed. The United States copied selected Mega Servers and copied selected data from some of the other Mega Servers, but did not remove any of the Mega Servers from the premises.

"Now that the United States has completed execution of its search warrants, the United States has no continuing right to access the Mega Servers. The Mega Servers are not in the actual or constructive custody or control of the United States, but remain at the premises controlled by, and currently under the control of, Carpathia and Cogent. Should the defendants wish to obtain independent access to the Mega Servers, or coordinate third-party access to data housed on Mega Servers, that issue must be resolved directly with Cogent or Carpathia. It is our understanding that the hosting companies may begin deleting the contents of the servers beginning as early as February 2, 2012."

According to an AP report, Megaupload attorney Ira Rothken said Sunday that the government has frozen its money and that the company is working with prosecutors to try to keep the data from being erased.

He said at least 50 million Megaupload users have data in danger of being erased, and added that besides its customers, the data is important to Megaupload so it can defend itself in the legal case.

"We're cautiously optimistic at this point that because the United States, as well as Megaupload, should have a common desire to protect consumers, that this type of agreement will get done," he said.

Megaupload maintained that millions of users have not been able to access their personal data, that includes photos and documents since the government shut down.