Ever since the raids in January, the fate of Megaupload users’ personal files has remained uncertain.
After initial negotiations over a voluntary return of user data failed, professional sports reporter and Megaupload user Kyle Goodwin lost patience and decided to take action.
Earlier this month the court granted Goodwin a hearing and yesterday the various parties submitted their opinions on what form the hearing should take.
Mr. Goodwin’s attorneys and those of Megaupload suggested an extensive hearing. Among other things they want Government employees, including FBI agents, to be questioned under oath about several aspects of the data seizures.
The U.S authorities on the other hand want to limit the hearing to the issue of whether Mr. Goodwin actually owns the data he wants returned. This question should be answered first, the Government states, as this would “avoid a fishing expedition into a pending criminal prosecution.”
United States Attorney Neil MacBride explained to the court that Mr. Goodwin might not be the legal owner of the data he seeks to retrieve. On the one hand the agreement between Megaupload and its users could limit ownership claims, but even if Goodwin can legally own the data, it may be infringing.
“Based on the government’s review of Mr. Goodwin’s website, ohiosportsnet.tv, the list of files uploaded by a Megaupload user using the account name ‘ohiosportsnet’ and the MD5 hash values of those files, it is not clear that Mr. Goodwin or his company owns the rights to all the data that he uploaded to Megaupload,” MacBride writes.
Goodwin publishes videos of sporting events but there are now claims that he used copyrighted music in these clips, possibly without acquiring the rights.
“Numerous videos produced by Mr. Goodwin have as their soundtracks recordings of popular copyrighted music. Many videos on his website begin with a statement describing the copyrighted music and including a disclaimer such as ‘we don’t own the rights’.”
Perhaps even worse, the DoJ also found a lot of music tracks that appear to come from illegal sources. That is, the hashes of these tracks match those of pirated copies.
“In addition, the ‘ohiosportsnet’ account at Megaupload had uploaded numerous music files, including music files with MD5 values that matched the hash values of pirated versions of popular music,” MacBride notes.
With this move the U.S. Government appears to be accusing Mr. Goodwin of storing pirated music files on Megaupload in the hope of preventing the return of user data to him. Since the initial negotiations the U.S. has also objected to the return of data to other Megaupload users.
Whatever the true reason, the Government’s accusations are not helping the sports reporter’s case.
According to Goodwin’s attorney Corynne McSherry, the brief is yet another diversion tactic. She is also surprised to see how easy it was for the Government to access the files of her client.
“[The Government] is doing its level best to make the issue about Mr. Goodwin, rather than its own failure to take any steps, much less the reasonable steps required by law, to protect the property rights of third parties. And it also appears to want to put a virtually insurmountable burden on Mr. Goodwin, and presumably anyone else who wants their property returned,” McSherry tells TorrentFreak.
“Finally, if the government is so well positioned to search through Mr. Goodwin’s files — and it is not at all clear that that search was authorized — presumably it could also find a way to return them,” she adds.
Megaupload’s lawyers are also calling for a swift data return. They believe that the DoJ’s reluctance stems from the fear that Kim Dotcom and the other defendants could use information gained via a detailed user data hearing to help defend the existing criminal case against the company.