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Ontario Court Rejects U.S. Government Demand for Full Access to Megaupload Servers Seized in Canada

Many readers will recall that nearly one year ago, the U.S. government launched a global takedown of Megaupload.com, with arrests of the leading executives in New Zealand and the execution of search warrants in nine countries. Canada was among the list of participating countries as the action included seizure of Megaupload.com servers located here. While the failed attempt (thus far) to extradite Megaupload mogul Kim Dotcom to the U.S. has attracted the lion share of attention, the U.S. government has quietly been working to obtain access to all the data stored on seized computers in other jurisdictions.

Last week, an Ontario court rejected a request to send mirror-imaged copies of 32 computer servers to authorities in the U.S., indicating that a more refined order is needed. Megaupload did not contest the seizure of the computers. It did argue, however, “that there is an enormous volume of information on the servers and that sending mirror image copies of all of this data would be overly broad, particularly in light of the scantiness of the evidence connecting these servers to the crimes alleged by the American prosecutors.” The company added that the volume of data on the 32 servers was equivalent to 100 laptop computers and that a review of the content by the court was appropriate.

In response, the judge asked the two parties to refine the proposed order by limiting what is disclosed to what is relevant to the case. The conclusion states:

the appropriate balance of the state interest in gathering evidence and privacy interests in information can be struck by an order that the servers be brought before the court pursuant to s.15 (2) so that the court can make an order refining what is to be sent. By this, I do not mean that at this stage the servers must physically be delivered to the courthouse. The application for a sending order is adjourned without a fixed return date, returnable on 7 days’ notice. If counsel are unable to agree as to how the scope of relevant material is to be defined then the matter may be brought back before a judge of this court for determination of that issue.

21 Comments

  1. Un-Trusted Computing says:

    Sovereignty
    It’s nice to see a court realize we actually have some.

  2. Jurisdiction
    I really wonder about the legality of using information
    Obtained outside the U.S. for prosecution within the U.S.
    Plus to prosecute it has to be obtainable by someone online
    In the states. The evidence if it was available could have just as easily
    Been downloaded without the need to waste cdn courts resources.
    If they did not download it in the states then i figure they dont have the evidence.

  3. whatever the court decides, i hope it is sensible enough to ensure that whatever data is given to/obtained by the US is exactly the same as is given to the Mega lawyers. if it goes the same way as previous data, the US want to use what it wants but prevent the Mega lawyers from knowing what is being used against them and therefore unable to make any defense, until after they get into court. how one sided and bias is that?

  4. Extraterritoritality
    My own, to remain nameless, US-based company with internationally deployed cloud data center has briefed employees that US Patriot act seizure rights applies to any server or storage devices that our company manages, regardless of whether those devices are physically located in other jurisdictions (outside the US) or are owned by other non-US companies or individuals. In effect, the position of the US Government is, if a US company can touch the data, it can be seized under the Patriot Act. Such a policy is clearly not in any company’s business interest when selling their services to international clients. One has to wonder what kind of threats were levied against our company in order to make them agree that Patriot Act had such broad extra-territorial applicability

  5. God bless you, Canada!
    You stood up to our psychotic law enforcement agencies that use the technological illiteracy of our judges and policymakers as a means of overstepping their authority and trampling liberty. Thank you for that … and also for Trailer Park Boys, which was very funny series except for season 1.

  6. Mr.
    You must realize that this is a victory for AMERICANS as well because it is a victory for people everywhere! NOT a victory for “America” LLC.

  7. Fmpsportsguy says:

    Why Cloud computing is a failure..
    many people use “cloud” computing to store personal information, photos etc etc.. if just one person uses that “cloud” to do something illegal.. then the US government has the right to seize all the information on those servers? Cloud computing is Scary!

  8. I am so happy that the rest of the World can stand up and say no to the almighty USA

  9. “equivalent to 100 laptop computers”
    what the hell does this mean

  10. “100 laptop computers” measuring things in units of variable volume is deceitful.

    Also this ruling sits right with me. Reminds me of a case in which a student in britain is facing extradition to the US over sharing videos online, a violation of US law, NOT british law.

  11. as it should be
    That is as it should be. Why should they be able to go on a fishing expedition. Just seize the computers and then go through them to see what is there. I should be the other way around. They need to say what is there that is illegal before they can seize them.

  12. Coverage on Ars Technica
    http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2013/01/us-rebuffed-in-effort-to-get-copies-of-canadian-megaupload-servers/

    It is thoughtful sober judgement such as this and the Voltage case that gives me some faith in our judges and legal system.

  13. Extradition
    Forgetting about the re-criminalization of Marijuana? How they extradited Canadians to American prisons even though they had never been to the US?
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marc_Emery

  14. blind panic
    Trying to gain access at this late stage to the canadian servers seems more a sign of desperation on the part of the DOJ looking for something incriminating. So far the search and seizures in NZ have been ruled illegal. It looks increasing likely that the warrants issued in the USA going the same way, which doesnt leave them much of a case, not that they had one to begin with.

  15. This is exactly the reason I do not store a file online only… Not when they government can come in and rob millions of users of their perfectly legal files. I saw it coming before Megaupload was shut down and luckily I pulled all my files to backup offline just to be safe. I was very sad to be correct in my thinking.. I might not have used Mega but I used many others that end up shutting down pretty much instantly when the shit storm hit.

    There is many reason to protect your files you host only online.
    Server Failure
    Some moron working for them screws up.
    Forgetting to pay your bill.
    Your account being hacked.
    Your friends/family.
    Accidental deletion on your part.
    And now sadly the government who will shutdown a server if the industries think they’re bad for business.

    They have no care for my shit or yours which they should not but they should not have the power to fuck with my stuff or yours.

    Since this unjust war on the internet I’ve stopped buying their music and movies. I don’t download them I don’t talk about them and if someone ask me about it I have no problem telling them why I don’t and I encourage them to do the same. I once was a fan but now I’m a enemy and my war might only be through my voice but I am sure I’ve cost them money bringing quite a few of my friends and family to do the exact same thing as I have. I’ve saved thousands of dollars in 2012 alone. I have less than zero respect for those responsible for the loss of petabytes of legit data they had no right to disable access to.

  16. This will keep happening until we gain a legal sense of tenancy in computing. Right now it’s like the government getting evidence that someone in one apartment of an apartment tower has committed a crime and them getting a warrant to search every apartment in the tower and sieze items from any apartment regardless of whether they belonged to the suspect or not. All it does is hurt people not involved in the crime.

  17. No different then a search warrent
    No different then a search warrant. Police in the states need a search warrant if they want to get into your house, but the warrant is very specific for what they are looking to find. Should be the same for servers or computers. Glad to see Ontario sticking it to the Americans, who should know better.

  18. Fmpsportsguy says:

    What the judgement really says
    The US government, in shutting down this server… with millions of peoples files on it that they can now no longer access, cannot have all the information on the server but must specifically request files from the server… that still doesn’t answer the question as to why millions of peoples files were taken offline, have no access to, and may never again have access to..

    Cloud computing is for IDIOTS

    How many pedophiles were caught sending pictures in plain brown envelopes through the mail system? How many mix “tapes” did the US postal service seize EVER.. people today get caught because they can be seen, their files can be traced, because they post stupid incriminating things, if you don’t want to get caught doing bad things like distributing movies, porn and music on the web… use the US postal system.. LOL

  19. Search warrant
    Whilst it is true that a search warrant specifies what should be searched for, the whole “property” is turned over during the search, with the result that anything can be mentally “stored away” by the searchers.

    The same applies to a computer.

    The search must be carried out away from any interested parties, and clear guide lines laid down as to what is relevant, as apposed to what could be relevant

  20. Shouldn’t they have a case first?
    It looks to me like one entity complained about some users of Megaupload sharing copyrighted files, so the US Government took out all MegaUpload servers everywhere in response. This is like the someone complaining of a ford truck speeding through a playground zone, so the Government seizes all Ford Trucks everywhere in the world.

  21. I downloaded from MegaUpload – will my IP address be there?
    I downloaded many files from Mega back when it was up and running. I got the links from sites like avax (which for some reason seems to be down right now). I was never a paid user of any file-locker – the free downloading is always good enough for me. Any IP addresses that the americans get from the Canadian servers would be very stale – not even Tek Savvy would have IP-assignment logs that are that old. But I wonder what’s happening with the data on the US servers – do they contain details of downloads performed by americans? Has anyone in the US been investigated for downloading copyrighted material from Megaupload based on this server-data?

    Oh look – I have to answer a captch challenge to post this – just like when I download from the file-lockers. I’ve gotten really good at these… :)