Soon after Megaupload’s shutdown more than five years ago, many of the site’s users complained that their personal files had been lost as collateral damage.
One of these users is Kyle Goodwin, who operates a sports video company in Ohio. He used Megaupload as part of his business, to safely store large videos he created himself.
But, after Megaupload’s servers were raided Mr. Goodwin could no longer access the files. Hoping to resolve the issue, he asked the court to assist him and others to retrieve their personal property.
Helped by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), Williams Mullen law firm, and Stanford’s Hoover Institution, Mr. Goodwin filed over half a dozen requests since 2012 asking the court to find a workable solution for the return of his data. Thus far, however, this has been without success.
This week, his legal team brought the issue before the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, pointing out that the Government’s seizure of Megaupload and its apparent disregard for the rights of former users of the service continue to affect innocent bystanders.
After more than five years, they hope that the court will help to break the case open, so former users will be able to retrieve their personal files.
“Mr. Goodwin, and many others, used Megaupload to store legal files, and we’ve been asking the court for help since 2012. It’s deeply unfair for him to still be in limbo after all this time,” EFF’s Senior Staff Attorney Mitch Stoltz says.
“The legal system must step in and create a pathway for law-abiding users to get their data back.”
Mr. Goodwin’s lawyers asked the court to issue a ‘writ of mandamus‘ to the trial court, requesting it to act on their client’s behalf and create a process for Megaupload users to regain access their data.
The longer it takes the higher the risk is that data will be permanently lost, the legal team stresses. And at this moment it could still take many years before the criminal case reaches its conclusion.
“The seizure and continued denial of access also violates Mr. Goodwin’s constitutional rights. Under the Fourth and Fifth Amendments, the government was obligated to execute the searches and seizures in a manner that reasonably protected the rights of third parties to access and retrieval,” the petition reads.
While the sports videographer is the only Megaupload user who’s fighting for his rights in court, there are many others who still hope to be reunited with their lost data. Last year a former Megaupload user contacted TorrentFreak in desperation, hoping to recover a personal photo that is very dear to him.
According to EFF, the Government can’t stand idly by in these cases. More and more users are hosting their personal data in the cloud and it’s important that their rights are taken into account.
“We’re likely to see even more cases like this as cloud computing becomes increasingly popular,” EFF’s Legal Director Corynne McSherry comments.
“If the government takes over your bank, it doesn’t get to keep the family jewels you stored in the vault. There’s a process for you to get your stuff back, and you have a right to the same protection for your data,” she adds.
In a few weeks we will know if the Appeals Court agrees, or if the waiting continues.