U.S. Court Asked to Release Megaupload Search Warrants

By seizing the servers of Megaupload, the U.S. Government also confiscated the personal belongings of many innocent users of the file-hosting service. One entrepreneur has asked the court to return his data and to assist this demand his lawyers are asking to unseal the search warrants. "Gaining access to the materials that served as a basis for the government’s seizure of his property can assist Mr. Goodwin and other innocent Megaupload users in determining whether the seizure was unreasonable," Goodwin's attorneys argue.

unlimited accessMore than nine months have passed since Megaupload’s servers were raided by the U.S. Government.

All this time Megaupload’s 1,103 servers have been gathering dust at Carpathia Hosting in the United States.

After initial negotiations over a voluntary return of user data failed, entrepreneur and Megaupload user Kyle Goodwin lost patience and decided to take action.

Earlier this month the Court granted Goodwin a hearing and to assist in the case his attorneys have now put in a request to unseal the original Megaupload search warrants and all related material.

The lawyers submitted their request to the U.S. District Court yesterday, arguing that the right of access to the materials is “fundamental to a democratic state.”

“Openness in criminal cases ‘enhances both … basic fairness … and the appearance of fairness so essential to public confidence in the system,’ as well as increasing the likelihood that the warrants issued in these types of cases involving seizures of digital third-party data are not overbroad,” they write.

“This is a particularly important point in criminal cases concerning cloud computing, where the norms for the scope of seizures are still being developed even as an ever-increasing percentage of personal and business activities are conducted online each year.”

Knowing more about the grounds that were used for the seizures will assist Goodwin’s lawyers and people in similar circumstances to protect their fourth amendment rights.

“Under the Fourth Amendment people have a right to be secure in their ‘papers’ and ‘effects’ against unreasonable searches and seizures. A person’s ‘effects’ may be the subject of Fourth Amendment protection even where there is no particular privacy or liberty interest,” the lawyers write.

“Gaining access to the materials that served as a basis for the government’s seizure of his property can assist Mr. Goodwin and other innocent Megaupload users in determining whether the seizure was unreasonable.”

On a larger scale, the seizure materials will aid in the national discussion about copyright infringement related domain and data seizures.

Previously the websites Dajaz1 and Rojadirecta  lost their domain names because of copyright infringement claims in warrants that didn’t stand up.

“In this case, providing access to judicial records about the government’s searches of Carpathia’s servers will help the public understand and meaningfully debate how government agencies are using their existing powers to seize domain names and cloud computing services to enforce copyright law and how the courts are handling their seizure requests,” the lawyers write.

“The public has a right to know about the legal steps that the government is taking to address this matter of intense national concern and how the courts are responding.”

Finalizing their request Goodwin’s lawyers note that the Government has no interest in keeping the documents sealed. The targets and the seizures are known and the indictment itself is public as well.

If the request is successful and the warrant papers are indeed released it will be interesting to see the factors that motivated the authorities to carry out the seizures.

Previously, a New Zealand court found the warrants used by local police to raid Dotcom’s Coatesville mansion in January were invalid, rendering the searches illegal. In addition, it was also discovered that the authorities illegally spied on Kim Dotcom, and possibly his bodyguard too.

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