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Nearly eleven million legit files blocked in Mega shutdown, says report

By | Published on Monday 21 October 2013


The shutdown of MegaUpload took nearly 11 million legit files offline, according to a new study by Northeastern University in Boston. Although the same report confirms that the majority of the files stored and shared via the now defunct cloud-locker and file-transfer service were likely infringing copyright.

The Northeastern study looked at content stored on five so called cyber-lockers in total, spying on FileFactory, Easy-share, Filesonic and Wupload as well as MegaUpload, and also monitoring the Undeadlink platform. The survey examined files and metadata on the file-transfer services, and focused in more detail on 1000 files randomly selected from each site.

The researchers conceded that it was hard to identify whether many files stored in the digital lockers were or were not infringing the copyrights of a third party, but of those that could be classified, more infringed than did not. Overall, researchers say that at least 26% and possibly up to 79% of files on the sites surveyed infringed copyright.

As for MegaUpload, arguably the highest profile of the file-transfer sites surveyed, and not just because of its dramatic shutdown by the US authorities in early 2012, the researchers reckon that at least 31% of the files stored on the service’s servers infringed copyright, while at least 4.3% did not.

Although the American music and movie companies that lobbied the US authorities to shutdown MegaUpload will see the academic report as vindication for their argument that the service existed primarily to enable copyright infringement (and that Mega chiefs turned a blind eye to that fact to further their commercial ambitions), opponents of the content industries will hone in on the fact that, according to the research, in the region of 10.75 million of the files taken offline were owned by the users who uploaded them.

As previously reported, the legit files stored on MegaUpload at the point of shutdown have been the subject of legal action in the States.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has led the charge on behalf of one former Mega user who also lost his local back-up of sports footage he had filmed, and who is therefore desperate to be reconnected with the files that are still being stored on long switched-off Mega servers. Assuming the files weren’t actually stored on MegaUpload’s European platform, which has already been wiped by the company who owned the hardware.

Although the American judge overseeing the case has been sympathetic to those who lost access to their own files as a result of the MegaUpload shutdown, the US authorities haven’t shared the judicial concerns, usually pointing out that Mega’s small print told users to keep local back-ups. Meanwhile the American entertainment industry has said affected users could be reconnected with their files, but only if copyright infringing content was first removed from the old MegaUpload platform, a condition that makes reconnection all but impossible.

Though, as previously noted, given that the easiest way to enforce copyright is to convince the masses that it’s something worth protecting, there would be a genuine PR benefit to the big music and movie companies in helping the little guys who used MegaUpload legitimately to reclaim their IP from the dead and dusty old Mega servers. But, as always, once the legal guys are involved, common sense PR rarely appears on the agenda.

And anyway, arguably the time for Mega-file returning has now passed (especially in Europe). Though by failing to act a year ago, reports like the one from Northeastern University, which should back up the arguments of the US authorities and entertainment giants, will instead be used by MegaUpload supporters to beat them around the head.