Man in the Middle Wants Out of Dragnet
ALEXANDRIA, Va. (CN) - A man caught in the middle of a federal probe into Megaupload.com asked the government to return the files he needs to run his small business.
Kyle Goodwin, who runs a business reporting on high school sports in Ohio, filed a brief in support of an emergency motion for protective order on March 30.
According to his brief, Goodwin paid for Megaupload's premium service so he could store an unlimited number of videos, interviews and news stories on the website's cloud storage service. He then shares footage of the sporting events he covers, creates news packages, or makes games available for streaming.
Goodwin says that after his own computer crashed he went to recover the files from Megaupload's servers, only to find that the FBI had shut down the website in an interdiction campaign against copyright infringement on the Internet.
Megaupload leased some servers from Carpathia Inc., according to the brief. Goodwin says that while the government finishes its investigation, Megaupload's assets have been frozen and the company cannot pay the rent for Carpathia's servers.
"As a result, since January 19, 2012, Mr. Goodwin has not been able to access the files he needs to conduct his business-i.e., his lawful property-despite that fact that those files are sitting on Carpathia's servers," Goodwin says.
"It is unclear which party has control of Mr. Goodwin's property. According to Carpathia, while the servers are in its possession, it cannot access those servers' contents. According to the government, it has released control over the servers and the data on them. According to Megaupload, without access to it funds (that are indisputably under the government's control), it cannot afford to turn the servers back on and allow customers like Mr. Goodwin to retrieve their files.
"What is clear is that MR. Goodwin, the rightful owner of the data he stores on Megaupload, has been denied access to his property."
Goodwin claims the government told the court on Jan. 27 "that it no longer had any need for Carpathia's servers. More troubling, the government also said that it understood that 'the hosting companies may begin deleting the contents of the servers beginning as early as February 2, 2010.'" (Citation omitted.)
While Goodwin believes his data has not yet been killed, he says Carpathia can no longer afford to keep its servers tied up and may begin the deletion process at any time.
Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights nonprofit based which is representing Goodwin, claims in its brief that an increasing number of federal seizures are "at the expense of entirely innocent third parties, with no attempt to prevent or even mitigate the collateral damage."
Courts have long counseled against irresponsible use of the practice for this reason, the EFF says.
"The court can help make Mr. Goodwin - an innocent party here - whole again," said EFF Staff Attorney Julie Samuels. "With government seizures growing, we're likely to see more and more cases like this, where lawful customers of a cloud service lose property in a federal copyright case.
We're hoping the court will set an important precedent to protect users from overzealous government agents."
The EFF claims that Carpathia's motion for a protective order would allow for an approved procedure to allow Megaupload customers to retrieve their files.
Goodwin's brief in support of that motion urges U.S. Judge Liam O'Grady to expedite the return of the files of lawful Megaupload users.
Goodwin claims the inability to get to his files, and the possibility they may be deleted, could kill his business, OhioSportsNet, which is not even a year old.
"Their loss threatens multiple aspects of OhioSportsNet's business," the brief states. "At least four parents agreed to pay Mr. Goodwin to put together highlight reels of their children's sports season to send to colleges for recruitment purposes; he has been unable to do that."
A full-length DVD documentary of a girls soccer team's season will also be lost if he is unable to retrieve his data, Goodwin said.
"Mr. Goodwin has suffered a significant loss to his business, through no fault of his own," said EFF intellectual property director Corynne McSherry.
"Megaupload's innocent users deserve an opportunity to get their important data back before it's destroyed forever."
Goodwin is represented by EFF's Julie Samuels and Corynne McSherry, with assistance from Abraham Sofaer of the Hoover Institution and John Davis of Williams Mullen. in Richmond, Va.