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Megaupload Founder Causes Uproar Over Lawyer Choice

The firm's previous participation in cases involving Google, YouTube, Disney and Fox has raised conflict-of-interest concerns.

Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom is finding that the now-shuttered file-sharing website he ran isn't the only thing that rubbed the U.S. government the wrong way -- his choice of legal representation has, too.

At issue is whether there is a conflict of interest.

Megaupload recently hired high-profile attorney Andrew Schapiro to defend itself, yet because of his firm's participation in cases involving Google, YouTube, Disney, Fox and other movie, TV show and software companies, the government is crying foul, saying it plans to call as witnesses some of these companies in the Megaupload case, according to TorrentFreak.

YouTube, for instance, is listed as a victim in the indictment against Megaupload. Schapiro led YouTube to a summary judgment in a copyright trial against Viacom, a battle that is ongoing since that judgment was recently reversed.

And Google, which also has been represented by Schapiro's firm, Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP, supposedly withdrew its AdSense service from Megaupload because of copyright concerns.

"It is unclear how Quinn Emanuel intends to zealously represent defendants Megaupload Limited and Kim Dotcom while also protecting confidential attorney-client information gained in the course of representing other clients, ... particularly where those clients interests are directly opposed to those of the defendants," the government wrote.

Schapiro's firm wrote a rebuttal decrying the government's meddling.

"[I]f the government is to have its way in this case, the only lawyers before the court will be those representing the government," the firm said. "If the government is to have its way, the only evidence available to the court would be that cherry-picked by the government, for the government, from the universe of relevant servers slated to be wiped. If the government is to have its way, in sum, Megaupload will never get its day in court and the case will effectively be over before it has even begun."

[See also: How Megaupload Got to be a Pirate Poster Boy]

Besides the tussle over who should represent Megaupload, there's a big legal question about what to do with the tens of millions of files that were stored on Megaupload.com. That's because several groups are fighting over who should or should not maintain 1,100 servers that house the files, including Web hosting provider Carpathia Hosting which says it is shelling out $37,000 a month to maintain the servers.

The Department of Justice, which says it has all the evidence it needs against Megauplad, doesn't want the servers and the potential cost of tens of millions of dollars as the case moves forward.

Megaupload, for its part, says it will look after the servers but the DOJ and the Motion Picture Association of America, which also doesn't want the servers, object.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, in representing a video journalist who stored duplicates of his videos at Megaupload.com, says somebody needs to maintain the servers considering that many of Megaupload's customers used the services for legitimate purposes.

The judge presiding over the case told all the lawyers involved to figure it out and report back in two weeks.

Maybe one of them will come up with the bright idea to put the servers back online for a short amount of time so that anyone who has kidnapped files can retrieve them. Doing so would at least appease some people growing weary with the government's forceful attack against a man on house arrest on the other side of the world.

[See also: EU Digital Commissioner Asks for Feedback on Megaupload Take-down]

Follow Christina on Twitter and Google+ for even more tech news and commentary and follow Today@PCWorld on Twitter, too.

More about: Andrew, Department of Justice, DOJ, Electronic Frontier Foundation, EU, Google, LP, Motion, Motion Picture Association of America, Uproar
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