Will Megaupload’s 28 petabytes of data be deleted?

SYDNEY – The hosting provider for the defunct file-sharing site Megaupload wants to delete the data now that investigators have collected most of what they need for the criminal case against the company’s operators.

Carpathia Hosting said maintaining Megaupload’s servers costs US$9,000 a day, a cost it should not bear since its not a party to the case, according to a document filed on Tuesday in a U.S. federal court and first written about by Wired.

Megaupload leased 1,103 servers located in both the U.S. and Canada from Carpathia. Those servers hold at least 25 and as much as 28 petabytes of data by Carpathia’s estimates, an astounding amount of data.

One petabyte of data is equivalent to 13.3 years of high-definition video, or all of the content in the U.S. Library of Congress — by its own claim the largest library in the world — multiplied by 50, according to a footnote in the court filing.

Federal prosecutors have charged seven people and two companies with copyright infringement and money laundering in connection with Megaupload, which they maintain encouraged sharing of content without the permission of the copyright owners.

Megaupload’s flamboyant founder, Kim Dotcom, is free on bail living near Auckland, but the U.S. wants to extradite him. Extradition proceedings are expected to begin in August.

It appears several parties want Megaupload’s data preserved, but no entity has stepped up so far to pay for it. Carpathia is asking the court for permission to lease the servers to new clients.

Some of the servers located in Canada were actually seized by law enforcement, while in the U.S., agents copied data but left the hardware, according to the filing.

Megaupload wants the data saved for its defense and in the chance that it can be returned to its customers, many of whom claim they used the file-sharing site for legitimate purposes. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, an advocacy group for digital rights and privacy, wants the data preserved for the same reason.

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) also wants it. The MPAA said in a letter to Carpathia included with the court filing that it may have civil claims against Megaupload and “potentially also against those who have knowingly and materially contributed to the infringement occurring through Megaupload”. U.S. government prosecutors have said they don’t need the data anymore, another letter in the filing said.

Carpathia’s lawyers argued in the filing that the parties with an interest in the data should pay for the storage.

The hardware alone storing Megaupload’s data is worth $1.25 million, Carpathia said. The company also said it has to move the hardware by next month at a cost of $65,000 because of a lease expiring in a location where it has Megaupload’s servers.

Carpathia has asked for a hearing after April 7, according to the court documents.

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