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MegaUpload hosting company deletes files

By | Published on Thursday 20 June 2013


MegaUpload’s main hosting company in Europe, LeaseWeb, has deleted data that was stored on the now defunct file-transfer platform prior to its shutdown last year, Kim Dotcom has told Torrentfreak. In all, this amounts to 630 servers worth of files.

As previously reported, the fate of the data that sat on the servers formerly used by MegaUpload has been much debated, ever since the American authorities shut down the digital business at the start of 2012, directly taking US-based servers offline, blocking the service’s dotcom domain, and freezing the firm’s assets so that any other server facilities could no longer be paid.

MegaUpload and its founder Dotcom maintain that much of the data stored by its users on those servers was legitimate, ie not illegally acquired music or movie files, but videos, photos or documents created by MegaUpload’s former customers. Those customers lost access to all and any files stored on the MegaUpload platform as soon as the service went offline, without warning. And while the file storage firm’s terms advised users to keep back-ups of files on their own computers, some won’t have done.

Team Mega and the Electronic Frontier Foundation have been calling on the American authorities to switch back on the old Mega servers, in a controlled way and on a temporary basis, to allow users to retrieve lost data. But the question is who would pay for such an initiative (and for the continued storage of data in the meantime), especially given the demands of the US movie industry that all unlicensed content should first be removed before the Mega servers are turned back on.

Dotcom’s lawyers have requested that some of the former company’s frozen assets be unfrozen to cover any costs, but prosecutors in America, who haven’t been especially sympathetic to those who lost access to their files, have resisted such calls. Meanwhile, covering the ongoing costs of storing old Mega data has fallen to the companies who owned the servers the file-transfer firm used to lease.

Most attention in this story to date has been focused on US server company Carpathia Hosting, which was quite vocal about the whole issue at the outset, and tried to facilitate a solution. When no solution could be reached, it opted to just hold onto all that data while the criminal case against MegaUpload and Dotcom went through the motions, even though doing so costs – or so the server firm says – in the region of $9000 a day.

However, in Europe most Mega data was stored on servers owned by Dutch firm LeaseWeb. And now, a year and a half after MegaUpload’s removal from the web, that company has decided to clean its servers of all those files. Well, actually, it says it did the wiping back in February, just over a year after MegaUpload’s demise.

Dotcom told Torrentfreak: “This is a huge disaster. They deleted petabytes of data and did not warn us at all. Our legal team asked them multiple times not to delete the data while the US court is deciding about the rights of our users. It’s such a betrayal. They could have given us some warning. We could have informed the court that a deletion is imminent. But LeaseWeb did not even give us or our users a fair chance”.

He added: “This is what the US government wanted all along. That’s why they seized all of our assets and would not even release funds to pay our hosting partners. Carpathia has done the right thing and stored MegaUpload servers at their own expense. That’s what LeaseWeb should have done after making millions of profits from MegaUpload. This was totally unnecessary and evil”.

In a statement, LeaseWeb responded: “When Megaupload was taken offline, 60 servers owned by MegaUpload were directly confiscated by the FIOD and transported to the US. Next to that, MegaUpload still had 630 rented dedicated servers with LeaseWeb. For clarity, these servers were not owned by MegaUpload, they were owned by LeaseWeb. For over a year these servers were being stored and preserved by LeaseWeb, at its own costs. So for over one whole year LeaseWeb kept 630 servers available, without any request to do so and without any compensation”.

It continued: “During the year we stored the servers and the data, we received no request for access nor any request to retain the data. After a year of nobody showing any interest in the servers and data we considered our options. We did inform MegaUpload about our decision to re-provision the servers. As no response was received, we commenced the re-provisioning of the servers in February 2013. To minimise security risks and maximise the privacy of our clients, it is a standard procedure at LeaseWeb to completely clean servers before they are offered to any new customer”.

Dotcom disputes that no request was made to save the data on the servers, and has said that his lawyers were now looking into whether any legal action could be taken against Leaseweb over the deletion.

While the dispute here is specifically between Dotcom and LeaseWeb, and between Dotcom and the US authorities (who, the Mega chief would argue, could have prevented this deletion by freeing up frozen funds), the entertainment industry will also likely suffer a backlash from those former MegaUpload users who have lost files.

It’s no secret that it was lobbying by the big content firms, and especially the movie studios, that kicked off the criminal investigation into the file-transfer company. And by complicating rather than embracing the initiative to return legit Mega data to its owners (by insisting its content be removed first), the movie industry could be accused of showing very little concern for the little guy’s intellectual property while demanding uber-protection for its own.