Collateral Damage: Innocent Users Impacted MegaUpload Takedown

Two weeks ago federal prosecutors in the US shut down MegaUpload, one of the most popular file-sharing sites on the Internet. The site was a widely-used “digital locker” that stored files for millions of users world-wide. Some of those users, however, used the side for illegitimate purposes, turning the site into a hub of what the US prosecutors characterized as “massive worldwide online piracy.”

While there’s no question large quantities of illegal, pirated material was successfully removed with the MegaUpload takedown, thousands of innocent users have lost access to their files as a result of the takedown. The legality of the takedown has been questioned by lawyers from around the world, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation has promised to take legal action against the US Government if data is not returned to legitimate users promptly.

When considering the risks of storing data in the cloud, becoming collateral damage from an over-reaching takedown order is not something the typical consumer will – or should – have to contemplate. The US Government deserves strong pushback on this kind of action, as other file storage services, such as Dropbox, Box and others – could face the risk of being summarily shut down because a subset of its users choose to misbehave.


  1. Anyone have any ideas as to what causes of action one may have in the United States against the government? I have thought about an unlawful Fifth Amendment takings, but that would have its problems. See here: Any other ideas?

  2. What about the tort of interference with economic interests?
    Some Torys lawyers wrote about it here
    The elements a plaintiff is required to prove are an intention to injure the plaintiff (might be a bit tricky) through interference with the plaintiff’s economic interests, made by unlawful means (again, tricky) and resulting in economic loss.

    Just brainstorming, Shaunna

  3. Well … if we ignore the small fact that the paper is 9 years out of date (and if it were a library book Torys librarian(s) would likely have culled it) and there’s a spate of appellate authority since (g)

    there’s the not too small fact that Torys was writing about actions in Canada under Canadian law.

    While the US does have something called the “Alien Tort Statute”- one of my favourite statute names: almost as good as the UK’s now repealed Law Reform (Married Women and Tortfeasors) Act – it doesn’t give aliens the right to sue the US gov’t.