How MegaUpload's Copyright Problem Affects You

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The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) issued a worrisome warning in the form of a press release on Thursday: MegaUpload used to own all of its users' data, but now the government does. Whether those users shared a family photo album through the site or pirated thousands of Hollywood movies, all of their data exists somewhere on MegaUpload's servers -- some of which are not located in the United States -- and based on the tone of EFF's formal request, it sounds like the government is considering wiping them clean.

"The government knows that Megaupload had many customers who followed the law. Yet it gave those users no notice that their data was at risk and no information about how they might be able to eventually get that data back," EFF Staff Attorney Julie Samuels wrote in a press release. "Our client, and the many other innocent Megaupload users, are entitled to a clear process for obtaining access to their own property, and the first step is to make sure that property is not deleted or damaged until the court can sort this out."

So far, the government's been stalling on making a final decision on whether or not to erase the data, though it did issue a warning a few days ago that it could erase the servers. Regardless of your file-sharing habits, this latest wrinkle in the great saga of MegaUpload and its founder Kim Dotcom throws more fuel on the smoldering controversy over who controls all of your Internet data and why. Obviously everyone on the Internet has been paying close attention to the state of how copyright law is enforced thanks to the overwhelming protest against SOPA, PIPA and related legislation. But as Dotcom's arrest and MegaUpload's shutdown have made very clear, the Feds don't need SOPA to go after a website. It would appear that they also don't need your permission to erase all of your files. There's probably some fine print in the terms and conditions statement somewhere, but who reads those things, anyway?

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.