In a rather surprising turn of events, the MPAA submitted a document to the court yesterday saying that they would be fine with legitimate Megaupload users getting their data back. The organization had previously said they wanted the data to be retained so they could bring lawsuits against groups using the site to illegally distribute movies. Some people probably thought the MPAA was just blowing hot air and Megaupload’s lawyer couldn’t agree more.
Speaking to CNET, Ira Rothken described the MPAA’s “sympathetic” gesture as just “posturing.” He says that the MPAA’s request to have the files filtered and only legitimate files returned is impossible. The current digital landscape makes it nearly impossible to distinguish a legitimate film download from a pirated copy. Couple that with the assumption that some people used Megaupload to store legitimate copies of their films and you have an indecipherable mess.
Rothken sees this impossibility as their chance. The U.S. government, the MPAA and other groups accuse Megaupload of being a haven of piracy and copyright infringement. If you can’t tell the difference between a pirated and legitimate copy of a film, how do you know if Megaupload was the piracy haven that these groups claim it to be? The only way you could do it is by issuing subpoenas to every Megaupload user around the world and that’s just impossible.
Like many, including Rothken and yours truly, are suggesting, the MPAA is just using this as a way to promote themselves as no longer being the bad guy. They need to prove that they’re a friend of the Internet after the SOPA debacle. Saying that they’re totally okay with Megaupload users getting their files back would build a lot of good will, but only among those who don’t know how insurmountable of a task that actually is.
It’s also important to remember that the MPAA didn’t even issue their support for Megaupload users getting their data back. They just said that they were fine with it if the court were to issue such an order. In essence, the MPAA is being a slacktivist. They’re fine with the cause, but they don’t want to lift a finger to actually help in the process. If they were really behind people getting their files back, they would be using their considerable weight in the court system to get something done.
In the end, it’s just another weird instance to come out of the Megaupload saga. We’ll keep you up to date on any further developments, including the potential for all charges against them to be dropped. It’s a long-shot, but Dotcom and Rothken are confident in their ability to beat the United States.