The Electronic Frontier Foundation will head to court on Friday to push the federal government to establish a process that will enable law-abiding Megaupload users to get their files back.
The U.S. government has accused Megaupload of facilitating widespread copyright infringement and shut the site down in January. Even so, some Megaupload customers used its services to back up and share files that belonged to them or represented fair use of copyright material.
The EFF will ask the court on Friday to create a process by which these legitimate users can retrieve their files. The nonprofit is representing Kyle Goodwin, an "interested party" in the case against Megaupload and its founder, Kim Dotcom.
Goodwin, a video journalist who covers high school sports, used a Megaupload premium account to store duplicates of his videos. When his hard drive crashed, Goodwin was left with no access to his work product. The hosting company claims it has no access to user data.
So should users of cloud storage services fear that their data, too, could become collateral damage in a case against copyright infringement?
"I think this case raises pretty serious questions about what happens when you store your data in the cloud and for whatever reason the government or the company decides they're not going to store your data anymore," said EFF spokeswoman Rebecca Jeschke.
Most Megaupload users would not have expected to lose their files as a result of infringement by others, said Jefferson Scher, an intellectual property attorney with Carr and Ferrell.
"There's a conception that on most of these sites, the problems that are created by user A won't affect user B. This is one of the few times, other than something like Napster, which completely went out of business, where the other users really were affected. It is a bit of a surprise," said Scher.
Establishing a process to let law-abiding users retrieve their data is a good idea, he said.
And as the government continues to address digital copyright issues, he added, "there needs to be clearer criteria and consideration of the potential innocent victims before a domain is seized and a site is shut down completely."
Cameron Scott covers search, web services and privacy for The IDG News Service. Follow Cameron on Twitter at CScott_IDG.