The ongoing Megaupload case is a controversial lightning rod case for issues on cloud storage, privacy and copyright. Megaupload basically ran a file storage and viewing service. The US Department of justice shut them down, seized assets, and launched criminal prosecutions alleging that it is an organization dedicated to copyright infringement.
Ben Schorr mentioned the case on Slaw recently, starting with the comment that “One thing has become clear in the last few months: Hollywood has declared war on the Internet.”
Wikipedia summarizes the situation well, and points out that:
Techdirt argued that while the founder of Megaupload had a significant history of “flouting the law”, evidence had potentially been taken out of context or misrepresented and could “come back to haunt other online services who are providing perfectly legitimate services”. Eric Goldman, a professor of law at Santa Clara University, described the Megaupload case as “a depressing display of abuse of government authority”. He pointed out that criminal copyright infringement requires that willful infringement has taken place, and that taking Megaupload offline had produced the “deeply unconstitutional effect” of denying legitimate users access to their data.
Concerns include the arbitrary way the site was shut down, leaving the files of legitimate users stranded. Also the possible over-reaching effect on legitimate cloud storage sites and file sharing.
The fight has come to Canada as well. US prosecutors asked the Canadian AG to obtain a court order to send mirror imaged copies of 32 servers in Canada to US prosecutors. The Ontario Superior Court of Justice refused to give the order based on the notion that the request was overly broad, and encouraged counsel to try to agree on the scope of material that would be relevant.
I find it interesting that the same Department of Justice that has been unrelenting and perhaps over reaching in the Megaupload case, is, according the the CIO blog:
giving a qualified endorsement of an update to a 1986 privacy law that leading cloud-service providers, public-interest groups and others argue is woefully out of step with the current methods of sending and storing communications.
In testimony before a House subcommittee on Tuesday, Elana Tyrangiel, acting assistant attorney general at the DoJ’s Office of Legal Policy, affirmed the Obama administration’s support for an overhaul of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) to provide stronger privacy protections for Webmail, documents stored online and other cloud services.
Cloud storage can be a useful tool – but be careful what you put there, use services with a good reputation, and keep duplicates elsewhere. If your data is sensitive, consider your own encryption so no one else can see the contents.