Judge asks for input over fate of orphaned Megaupload data

Up to 28 petabytes of data remain offline as a result of the court action against the website

A U.S. federal judge has asked for more information to plan an evidentiary hearing concerning the fate of terabytes of data held in limbo since the shutdown of the Megaupload file-sharing site.

U.S. government prosecutors and Kyle Goodwin will submit briefs because "the court finds that it is unable to reach a conclusion as to this matter without an evidentiary hearing," according to the order, signed on Tuesday by U.S. District Court Judge Liam O'Grady in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed a motion in March on behalf of Goodwin, an Ohio-based sports reporter who lost access to data he stored on Megaupload after the site was shutdown on January on criminal copyright infringement charges.

The EFF has asked the court to find a way to return data to owners who legally hold the rights. Megaupload's 1,103 servers, which hold upwards of 28 petabytes of data, are still held by Carpathia Hosting, Megaupload's U.S. hosting provider.

"We are glad that Mr. Goodwin will finally get to make his case in court, and we look forward to helping the judge fashion a procedure to make all of Megaupload's consumers whole again by granting them access to what is legally theirs," wrote Julie Samuels, an EFF staff attorney.

Megupload will ask the court to make a special appearance in order to weigh in on the data issue, said Ira Rothken, one of the file-sharing site's attorneys, on Friday.

Rothken said Megaupload can't file a brief without that permission since it is has a motion before the court contending the U.S. doesn't have jurisdiction over the company because it was based in Hong Kong. U.S. federal criminal procedures dictate that a company must be served a summons in the U.S., and Megaupload was never served.

O'Grady has yet to rule on the motion to dismiss the charges against the company.

If it is allowed to make a special appearance, Megaupload will advocate returning data to users. "Megaupload looks forward to having the court determine whether or not the U.S. acted appropriately by turning off all consumer access to data," Rothken said.

The U.S. government along with the Motion Picture Association of America have opposed allowing Megaupload to retake control of the data. The U.S. contends Megaupload encouraged users to upload files without permission of copyright owners and collected US$175 million through advertising and premium subscriptions.

Megaupload's founder, Kim Dotcom, and his colleagues Finn Batato, Mathias Ortmann and Bram van der Kolk, are charged with criminal copyright infringement, money laundering and fraud. Extradition proceedings for the four, now living in New Zealand, are expected to start next year.

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