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Group Defends Innocent Megaupload Casualties

(CN) - Innocent Megaupload users lost access to legal data when the federal government recently shut down the website, the Electronic Frontier Foundation claims, calling for the government to restore this material.

Armed with a Jan. 5 indictment, the government took down Megaupload, one of the largest online file-hosting services, and charged seven people with running a $500 million worldwide piracy ring that trafficked in copyrighted movies, books and music.

The seven employees were charged with racketeering, money laundering and conspiracy to commit copyright infringement.

Authorities claimed Megaupload encouraged users to upload popular copyrighted movies, music and TV shows in an attempt to drive up web traffic, often offering financial incentives to Internet users who used linking sites.

On Wednesday, the Electronic Frontier Foundation published a letter addressed to the attorneys working on the case that urged them to return the legally uploaded data to innocent users.

The letter asks the attorneys to preserve the legal, noninfringing data uploaded by "innocent individuals whose materials have unfortunately been swept up into this case."

"Our fear was that things were happening quickly, and folks that had some skin in the game weren't going to have the opportunity to ensure that their interests were spoken for," Electronic Frontier Foundation attorney Julie Samuels told Courthouse News.

Samuels said one of those "innocent individuals" mentioned in the letter was Michael Weinberg, who ironically used Megaupload to store a recording of a congressional hearing on the Stop Online Piracy Act.

"What's really important here is that we all take a step back, take a deep breath, and make sure that everyone affected has a voice in this debate going forward," Samuels said.

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