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What Megaupload's Demise Teaches about Cloud Storage

Takedown of the file-sharing site over copyright violations provides a warning about being careful where you store stuff.

By Ian Paul
January 20, 2012 11:03 AM ET

PC World - Megaupload users are crying foul after their personal files, not necessarily copyright-infringing material, stored with the file-sharing service was seized on Thursday along with a trove of illegally distributed copyrighted works.

Some of those users took to Twitter complaining about the loss of their files, as first reported by TorrentFreak. "I had files up there...gone forever..and they were personal recordings! No copyright infringement!" said Twitter user J. Amir. Another user complained that her work files were now gone, and others used more colorful language to describe their predicament.

The Megaupload seizure shows how personal files hosted on remote servers operated by a third party can easily be caught up in a government raid targeted at digital pirates. But perhaps more importantly, the demise of Megaupload shows that you must be careful about where you trust your data, when picking a cloud service.

Mega Conspiracy

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation called the Megaupload seizure and the arrests of four of its key employees in New Zealand one of the "largest criminal copyright cases ever brought by the United States." Federal authorities, dubbing the alleged criminal acts the "Mega Conspiracy," accuse the site of harming copyright holders in excess of $500 million in damages and claim Megaupload earned more than $175 million for its investors and employees.

Before its closure Megaupload had 180 million registered users and an average of 50 million daily visits, claimed a total visitor history of more than one billion, and accounted for about four percent of all global Internet traffic, according to the indictment filed in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Virginia.

Megaupload was one of many sites run by the company including Megavideo, a popular site for finding free streaming video of pirated television shows and movies.

Megaupload's Storage Policies

It's not clear how many of Megaupload's 180 million registered users relied on the company to store non-copyright-infringing personal files, but it appears at least some people were. Megaupload may not have been the most trustworthy service to rely on for long term data storage.

The Mega Conspiracy indictment says that non-registered free users would have to download their files at least once every 21 days or Megaupload would delete the content. Registered free users had to download their files at least once every 90 days or their data would also be deleted. Paying users, however, could store files for as long as they wanted without downloading as long as they continued to pay for a premium membership.

Picking a Cloud

Regardless of Megaupload's policies, it appears at least some users were storing files with the company and not bothering to back up the files on a local hard drive. As these users recently discovered, it turns out to be a bad idea to store files with aA cloud service that allegedly relies on piracy for a big part of its revenue.

Originally published on www.pcworld.com. Click here to read the original story.
Reprinted with permission from PCWorld.com. Story copyright 2012 PC World Communications. All rights reserved.
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