Megaupload to DOJ: Misleading Semantics Aside, You Told Us You Were Investigating Infringing Files, So We Preserved Them
from the these-things-are-important dept
The back and forth between the DOJ and Megaupload continues. As you may recall, a key piece of evidence against Megaupload was the fact that it “knew” about certain infringing content on the site after being informed about it – and that Megaupload left that content in place. However, when the warrant was finally unsealed (over objections from the DOJ), it revealed that the “reason” that Megaupload “knew” about this content was because the DOJ had reached out to Megaupload’s hosting partner, Carpathia, and told them about this content, seeking information about it for the purposes of a criminal investigation (likely Ninjavideo). Carpathia made all of this clear to Megaupload, and Megaupload cooperated entirely, and did not delete the content for fear of deleting evidence in a criminal investigation after it had been made aware of it.
Megaupload then pointed all of this out to the court, arguing that the DOJ misled the court in getting the warrant in the first place, since it didn’t mention the specific circumstances for why Megaupload was aware of the content, but had kept it up. The DOJ’s response, from earlier this week, was to argue that since the DOJ never contacted Megaupload directly, none of this matters.
Megaupload has wasted little time in hitting back hard, pointing out that (a) the DOJ was well aware that Carpathia had informed Megaupload of the investigation, (b) that, at the very least, Megaupload’s actions in context show non-nefarious reasons for having left the content up (basically arguing the intent) and (c) that, no matter what, the DOJ needed to at least inform the court of these basic circumstances.
Third, the Government attempts to distance itself from what Megaupload was told about the 2010 warrant by emphasizing that it did not directly instruct Megaupload to preserve the allegedly infringing files. (Dkt. 155 at 3.) But it is well settled that a private party’s actions are imputed to the Government when that party is enlisted by the Government and acts in accordance with the Government’s instructions. Thus, courts confronting criminal searches and seizures have consistently found Fourth Amendment interests implicated where a private party acts as the Government’s “instrument or agent.” See Skinner v. Railway Labor Executives’ Ass’n, 489 U.S. 602, 614 (1989); United States v. Richardson, 607 F.3d 357, 364 (4th Cir. 2010). As the Fourth Circuit has indicated, “the key factors bearing upon the question of whether a search by a private person constitutes a Government search are: ‘(1) whether the Government knew of and acquiesced in the private search; and (2) whether the private individual intended to assist law enforcement or had some other independent motivation.'” ….
Here, Carpathia’s communications with Megaupload satisfy both prongs. The Government not only knew of Carpathia’s actions but orchestrated them. Indeed, the Government’s affidavit in support of the June 24, 2010 search warrant expressly requested that “Carpathia and its customer MegaUpload be permitted to view the warrant and Attachments A and B to the warrant to assist them in executing the warrant.” … Correspondingly, the Order sealing that warrant, which “found that revealing the material sought to be sealed would jeopardize an ongoing criminal investigation,” authorized the Government to provide the warrant only to Carpathia, and authorized Carpathia to “provide a copy of the warrant with attachments and this sealing order to MegaUpload.”…. In conveying the instructions to Megaupload, Carpathia noted that it had “attempted to convince the Government to work directly with Mega on this matter, but given the complex jurisdictional issues, they have been unwilling.” …. It is equally clear that Carpathia’s sole purpose in communicating with Megaupload on that date was to assist the Government in executing the June 24, 2010 warrant.
The key point is that even if the government believed Megaupload still could have deleted the evidence that it had explicitly sought from Megaupload (which would be quite surprising), it at least had the duty to make it clear why Megaupload was aware of this content, as that has a pretty direct implication on Megaupload’s reasons for keeping the content around.
Even if the Government could somehow avoid responsibility for Carpathia’s instructions and the Magistrate Court’s sealing order, there would remain the undeniable fact that the Government failed to inform this Court of critical, exculpatory information about the circumstances under which Megaupload learned of the allegedly infringing files and subsequently cooperated with the Government’s investigation. See United States v. Leon, 468 U.S. 897, 926 (1984) (material omissions that render search warrants misleading can be grounds for invalidating warrants);…
Once again, it seems like the government simply rushed through the Megaupload case, ignoring many, many important details, and basing its case on the theory that if the entertainment industry hates Kim Dotcom so much, he must be all bad. And, if you’re dealing with someone “all bad” apparently the DOJ seems to think it can take a bunch of shortcuts.