Unsealed Megaupload Seizure Warrants Reveal Use Of Flawed Logic... And An 'Undercover Computer'
from the did-it-wear-a-mustache dept
"MegaUpload was served with a criminal search warrant for alleged third-party user conduct and was advised not to interfere with that criminal investigation or with the files -- as such disclosure, would jeopardize the ongoing investigation. To ask MegaUpload to cooperate and then use that cooperation against them, to us seems to be both unfair and misleading."Most of the argument in the warrants is just repeating the already questionable claims in the indictment -- which is what you'd expect. They're also not all that different from previous domain seizure requests -- with a few notable exceptions. First, you'll notice that the special agent who conducted the investigation has all personal information redacted. Apparently the Justice Department would prefer that its agent not receive the ridicule that the agent who made myriad mistakes in earlier domain seizures received.
But what was really amusing was the description of the investigation, which apparently involved an "undercover computer."
Using an undercover computer, [redacted] observed how a visitor may view content hosted on Megaupload.com. For example, on November 20, 2011, [redacted] observed the copyrighted picture "Zack and Miri Make a Porno," which was released in 2008 by The Weinstein Company, on the website Megavideo.com.I'm still trying to figure out just what an "undercover computer" is -- and where I can buy one. Also, seems kind of random to choose Zack and Miri as the sample file to download -- especially given the director/writer of that particular movie, Kevin Smith, has talked extensively about how he believes "piracy" actually helps him gain more fans. Yes, the film's copyright is held by The Weinstein Company -- whose owners appear to have a slightly less enlightened view of infringement -- but it still seems like an odd choice.
In addition to those oddities, there are some other claims within the filings that don't make much sense. They make the argument that seizure is necessary with claims that are, simply speaking, not true:
Neither a restraining order nor an injunction is sufficient to guarantee the availability of the Subject Domain Names for forfeiture. By seizing the Subject Domain Names and redirecting them to another website, the United States will prevent supporters of the Mega Conspiracy or third parties from redirecting the Subject Domain Names to servers elsewhere in the world, and thus using them to commit additional crimes. Furthermore, seizure of the Subject Domain Names will prevent visitors from continuing to access the websites located at the Subject Domain Names.To put it simply: that makes no sense. Either a restraining order or an injunction would, in fact, prevent those other things from happening. Yes, Megaupload could have ignored the two, but then it would face additional charges for ignoring the court. Given that Megaupload had repeatedly engaged in various lawsuits against it in the US before, there was simply no evidence that Megaupload would directly ignore the court and, as such, face additional charges.
Finally, the documents also show the DOJ's request for these documents to be sealed. You can understand why they wanted the warrants sealed prior to the takedowns and arrests happening. But those all took place within a week of the seizures being approved by the judge. There was no reason to keep them under seal. Yet the DOJ claims that it "has considered alternatives less drastic than sealing, including, for example, the possibility of redactions, and has determined that none would suffice to protect this investigation." That is, of course, empirically and definitively false because we've now seen the unsealed and redacted document and they do nothing to endanger the investigation (other than, perhaps, revealing the weaknesses of the DOJ's arguments).