There are days that the actions of the MPAA just make you shake your head and wonder just what goes through the minds of the lawyers running that insane asylum. The latest is the news that they’re considering suing Megaupload users directly, as if their reputation wasn’t already mud. The details actually have to do with the fight over whether or not the data on Megaupload’s servers is going to be deleted. There was a point, soon after the shutdown, when it was suggested that, due to a lack of anyone able to still pay the bills, the hosting provider that Megaupload used, Carpathia Hosting, would soon wipe the servers clean. That struck me as odd, because I would have thought that the data on those servers represented evidence in a criminal case — but for reasons still not clear, the government insists it has no need for the data and that Carpathia is free to delete it. I won’t even begin to speculate over the fact that the person who sent the letter to Carpathia suggesting this also happens to be the BSA’s former head anti-piracy VP. An ex-anti-piracy exec for an industry lobbyist, now running a criminal anti-piracy case, basically telling the data center to delete evidence? Hmm…
Others, of course, were concerned about both the evidence that could exonerate Megaupload as well as the legitimate files that were going to be lost — so there was an effort made to try to have the files retained, and the hosting firm has said (for now) that they won’t delete the data, despite the fact it is costing the company $9,000 per day to maintain these servers and the 25 petabytes of data they contain. But it wants to.
So here’s the surprise. Those fighting to keep the data have an unexpected ally: the MPAA. Yes, you see the MPAA wants to keep its options open and is considering directly suing users who may have used Megaupload for infringement — and for that to work, they’d need that data to remain available. This came out in a filing by Carpathia to the court, in which it notes that there is significant interest in keeping the data around, but it wants out of the burden of paying for all of this and having to retain the data itself. The filing notes that Megaupload itself wants the data for its defense, the EFF wants to help users get legit files back… and the MPAA wants the data to sue people. Apparently, unbeknownst to the public until now, the MPAA sent Carpathia a letter arguing in agreement with Megaupload and the EFF that the data shouldn’t be destroyed, but only because the MPAA wants to have access to the data in case it decides to go hogwild and completely and permanently destroy its reputation by suing users directly. From the letter the MPAA sent Carpathia:
Independent of the ongoing criminal proceeding, the Studios have civil claims against the operators of Megaupload, and potentially also against those who have knowingly or materially contributed to the infringement occurring through Megaupload…
… In light of the potential civil claims by the Studios, we demand that Carpathia preserve all material in its possession, custody, or control, including electronic data and databases, related to Megaupload or its operations. This would include, but is not limited to, all information identifying or otherwise related to the content files uploaded to, stored on and/or downloaded from Megaupload; all data associated with those content files, the uploading or downloading of those files, and the Megaupload users who uploaded or downloaded those files; all data reflecting or related to payments to third parties (including Carpathia) by the Megaupload operators; all data reflecting or related to payments to the Megaupload operators, including by users and other third parties, all electronic records regarding communications by the individuals involved in Megaupload’s operations; and all internal documents and communications regarding Megaupload.
Of course, recognizing just how bad its own lawyers’ statements are on the matter, the MPAA has sent in its PR folks to try to clean up the mess. Almost immediately after David Kravets at Wired published the original article highlighting this, MPAA PR people started calling him insisting that it wasn’t true at all. MPAA PR VP Howard Gantman told Kravets that the MPAA has no intention to sue users, despite the clear language of the letter it sent Carpathia.
“The reason we did that filing so that there is a possibility that litigation might be pursued against Megaupload or various intermediaries involved in Megaupload’s operation. We’re not talking about individual users…”
That’s not what the plain language of the letter itself clearly states — but never let facts get in the way of a good yarn spun by MPAA PR people desperately trying to make the organization seem not 100% evil. But, this is how the MPAA thinks: lawyers shoot their mouths off with threats first, and the PR folks are left to do cleanup. That’s what happens when you put the lawyers in charge, without any real knowledge of technology, business or just how ridiculously bad they make themselves look with their extreme positions. And then they wonder why no one sides with them in debates like the one over SOPA. Perhaps it’s because their position is so crazy that anyone with the slightest bit of common sense would have known to stay miles away. But that’s not how the MPAA rolls. It goes to crazytown and beyond, and then just denies it was thinking about suing users, despite claiming exactly that.