Campaigners for a fair and balanced copyright law are joining forces to consider a legal claim against the US Government's seizure of Hong Kong-based hosting site Megaupload.
Pirates de Catalunya (PP-Cat) announced a collective civil action in Spain against the FBI earlier this week. The group believes that legitimate users of Megaupload who were using the service to store personal files and documents and who are now unable to access those files due to the FBI's seizure of the information stored on the site's servers may have legal recourse. PP-Cat believes the FBI may have violated Articles 197 and 198 of the Spanish Penal Code by misappropriating personal data.
The announcement, on website Pirata.cat, said: "The FBI has caused incalculable damage, far in excess of the losses claimed by the content lobbies, in a fruitless attempt to prevent access to the media content hosted on Megaupload, some of which they claim to have been infringing copyright under US law.
"However, as much of the unlawful content will still be available via other services on the web, this action not only shows us the futility of these measures but also serves as a reminder that these files are not necessarily, nor have been shown to be, illegal in any country, including the US."
Following the closure, groups across the world, including the UK's Pirate Party, joined forces with PP-Cat to consider what legal action may be possible. The website Pirata.cat was set up as a consequence of that.
The statement continues: "The widespread damage caused by the sudden closure of Megaupload is unjustified and completely disproportionate to the aim intended. For this reason Pirates of Catalonia, in collaboration with Pirate Parties International and other Pirate Parties [including the Pirate Party of the United Kingdom], have begun investigating these potential breaches of law and will facilitate submission of complaints against the US authorities in as many countries as possible, to ensure a positive and just result."
Andrew Robinson, Pirate Party UK Culture, Media and Sports spokesman said: "We believe that the rights of ordinary people are being ignored by those intent on maintaining a flawed business model via excessive legislation. We believe that unjust laws like SOPA, PIPA and now ACTA must be fought, and that ordinary Internet users should have legal recourse against the copyright lobby."
One individual contacted Pirate Party UK after losing access to their entire personal photography archive hosted on Megaupload.
In the US, Electronic Frontier Foundation has contacted Carpathia Hosting, which owns some of the servers MegaUpload was using, to try and help users recover their legitimately owned data. Carpathia Hosting has set up a website Megaretrieval.com, with information on how to contact the EFF.
In a statement on the website, EFF said: "When the United States Government shut down access to Megaupload, a multitude of innocent users who stored legitimate, non-infringing files on the cloud-storage service were left with no means to access their data. If you believe you are one of these users, are based in the United States, and are looking for legal help to retrieve your data, please email the best contact information for you to the EFF."
Although Carpathia does not have, and has never had, access to the content on Megaupload’s servers, the hosting provider wants to assist lawful users of the Megaupload service by promoting EFF and its non-profit legal services. Carpathia hopes the creation of www.MegaRetrieval.com will help drive awareness that Megaupload customers can seek legal assistance to retrieve their data.
“Carpathia does not have access to any data for Megaupload customers. We support the EFF and their efforts to help those users that stored legitimate, non-infringing files with Megaupload retrieve their data,” said Brian Winter, Chief Marketing Officer of Carpathia Hosting.
With the news that all data stored on Megaupload may be destroyed in two weeks time, campaigners will be hoping they can halt the process and regain legitimately uploaded data.