US government routed on Megaupload case

US government prosecutors made the same mistake as the revolutionary Benedict Arnold by crossing the border armed with writs and expecting the Canadians to surrender.

A year ago the US government launched a global takedown of, with arrests of the leading executives in New Zealand and the execution of search warrants in nine countries.

The Canadians participated in the shutdown, believing that the US government had told them, correctly, that the file sharing operation was a front for organised crime.

After the, so far, failed attempt to extradite Megaupload’s Kim Dotcom, the US government has been trying to obtain access to all the Megaupload data stored on seized computers in other jurisdictions.

It assumed that the Canadians would roll over under the weight of its hefty briefs, but this week was somewhat shocked when an Ontario court told them to go forth and multiply.

According to Michael Geist’s blog, the US thought that the Canadians would just give mirror-imaged copies of 32 computer servers to authorities in the US.

Megaupload did not contest the seizure of the computers and it should have been a slam dunk. But the Canadian court said that the volume of information that the US wanted was far too much.

The court was also not happy about the scant evidence connecting these servers to the crimes alleged by the American prosecutors.

The judge asked the two parties to refine the proposed order by limiting what is disclosed to what is relevant to the Megaupload case.

What seems to have worried the Canadians was the small matter of Megaupload customer’s privacy. The servers had a considerable amount of private data on them which had nothing to do with the case.  However, if Canada handed this material over, then it was effectively allowing the US government to read the data, including secret business plans of millions of Mega customers.

This means that if the US government wants to use the server data as evidence, it will have to go through each file and justify why it needs to take a copy to the court.