A US judge called Friday for the preservation of all data on the servers formerly used by file-sharing company Megaupload, which was indicted for internet piracy and shut down in January.
Judge Liam O'Grady also ordered all the interested parties to hold negotiations on who should be responsible for preserving the data, which resides on hundreds of servers owned by digital hosting company Carpathia Hosting, technology news sites Cnet and IDG reported.
The issue is contentious since Megaupload argues that the data is needed to help it fight piracy charges, while Hollywood studios claim that it is comprised mainly of illegally copied movies.
The billions of files are owned by as many as 60 million users of the cyberlocker service and, according to lawyers for the users, contain a huge amount of legitimate data stored online by clients for backup, sharing and other legal purposes.
Carpathia Hosting said the cost of keeping the data accessible reached 37,000 dollars per month, an amount which it was unable to continue paying.
Lawyers for the US Department of Justice and the Motion Picture Association of America objected to the proposal that the servers be given over to the control of Megaupload.
That would be like "trusting the thief with the money," Jay Prabhu, assistant US attorney for the Eastern District of Virgina, was quoted as saying. "The transfer of allegedly infringing materials to the infringer was unacceptable to us."
An online advocacy group, Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), argued that it was up to the Department of Justice to take responsibility for the servers.
But Prabhu said the government had no interest in the servers because it already had all the information it needed to prosecute the case.
With the Department of Justice seizing more and more websites for copyright infringement, the agency needed to decide how to deal with the owners of legitimate data on those sites, EFF lawyer Julie Samuels said.
"I think a lot of this chaos was of the government's making," she added.
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