The request for a search warrant to obtain the mirrored server images was issued by the attorney general of Canada on behalf of the United States, and it was aimed at the entirety of the servers, which the court said amounts to the equivalent of 100 laptop computers.
That was a sticking point for Ontario Superior Court Justice Gladys Pardu, who denied the request, and asked that the request be made more specific as required under her interpretation of relevant Canadian law:
"Put in terms of this case, the argument is that a warrant containing no limiting terms with respect to the parts of the computer that could be searched, properly authorizes a full examination of all the data stored on the computer as if it is one indivisible item," Pardu wrote in the court's Jan. 9 ruling. "I do not accept this view, however. In my opinion, the analogy between forensic testing of a physical object and the examination of the contents of a computer is not an apt one. Unlike a physical object, it is not information generated by the physical characteristics of or adhering to the object that is the target of the search. It is the informational contents of the computer themselves that are the target of the search. This is a qualitative difference."
Pardu goes on to explain that the request for a warrant to obtain the server images has been denied until a more appropriate request is issued.
The decision is being viewed as a major setback in the U.S. government's global attempt to take down Megaupload.com, as Canada is one of nine nations where search warrants were issued in pursuit of materials relevant to the case, which also saw arrests of leading Megaupload figures in New Zealand by authorities there.
Megaupload is a leading file-sharing site headed by Kim Dotcom that has become a ground zero of sorts in the international battle over file-sharing, Internet piracy and copyright law in the digital age.
Dotcom's predicament has been one of the most-reported aspects of the case, as U.S. authorities continue to be frustrated in their efforts to extradite him to the U.S. to face criminal copyright charges stemming from his involvement in the wildly successful Megaupload.com empire.
The extradition case remains tied up in a New Zealand court, which in December pushed back hearings on the matter until August 2013 despite the urging of American authorities that it be expedited so Dotcom can face the charges, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
The charges against Dotcom and other Megaupload leaders were brought by the U.S. Justice Department a year ago, when the FBI explained the reasoning behind the case in a Jan. 19, 2012, statement posted to its official website:
"Seven individuals and two corporations have been charged in the United States with running an international organized criminal enterprise allegedly responsible for massive worldwide online piracy of numerous types of copyrighted works through Megaupload.com and other related sites, generating more than $175 million in criminal proceeds and causing more than half a billion dollars in harm to copyright owners, the U.S. Justice Department and FBI announced today," the statement read. "This action is among the largest criminal copyright cases ever brought by the United States and directly targets the misuse of a public content storage and distribution site to commit and facilitate intellectual property crime."