Megaupload case marks death of the cloud

This Thursday, gigabytes of personal data which was stored on the servers of Megaupload will be deleted.

It will mean that countless people who used the site legitimately as a back-up will lose their data.

Frankly, it’s amazing that the US judicial system would allow anyone to do it. Even if Megaupload operated in a grey-area, the act of its destruction is also the destruction of the personal property of millions of innocent people. If you rent a garage from a man who happens to be a drug dealer and the police seize his property, it doesn’t give them the right to take your car. Which is exactly what is happening in this case.

According to AP, US prosecutors blocked access to Megaupload and charged seven men, saying the site facilitated millions of illegal downloads of movies, music and other content. Notice the word facilitated which comes straight from the vocabulary of Big Content.

A letter filed in the case by the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia said storage companies Carpathia Hosting and Cogent Communications may begin deleting data on Thursday. The reason for that, the cops say, is not because of anything it is doing, but because Megaupload happened to outsource its servers to Carpathia for a fee. Since the police have seized all Megaupload’s cash, it is impossible for it to pay the company which will effectively do the dirty deed.

The US Attorney’s Office said that it only needed some data from the servers which it has copied. It did not need to seize the actual servers themselves. In fact, its search warrants did not cover the servers controlled by Carpathia and Cogent. Anything about the future of that data lies with them. The question is, how can any company which used Megaupload as a back up do that?

To make matters worse, the deletion of data could harm Megaupload’s defence. It could argue that the data on the servers can prove that it was a legitimate operation and piracy only made up a small percentage of its work. This small percentage, it could be argued, was something it was trying to resolve.

Megaupload is based in Hong Kong. US spooks said they had the authority to act because some of its leased servers are in Virginia.

The case should be seen as the US authorities and Big Content effectively killing off cloud based computing.

The business model is already under threat because of America’s insistence that all data from US companies can be sniffed by its spooks. This means that a European company would have to be insane to allow their data to be placed in cloud based computing from Microsoft, Google or IBM.

Moreover, they have to check if any cloud operations offered by European countries have servers based in the US.

Failure to do so could result in company data being deleted because Big Content has decided to kill off another “pirate” and the FBI and police force nodded and did what they were told.