When the U.S. government shut down Megaupload earlier this month, no differentiation was made between infringing and innocent users’ accounts. Millions of Megaupload patrons simply employed the service to store and save personal files, many of which were irreplaceable.

Now, these files are not only inaccessible; they’re slated to be destroyed for good.

The U.S. Attorney told Megaupload that customer data may be destroyed by the end of the week, according to TorrentFreak.

“We received a letter very late Friday from the US Attorney that declared there could be an imminent destruction of Megaupload consumer data files on this coming Thursday,” Megaupload lawyer Ira Rothken told TorrentFreak.

Since the Federal shutdown froze the company’s assets as well as confiscated customer data, Megaupload no longer can access the money needed to pay for server maintenance. The letter from the U.S. Attorney suggests that the government is unwilling to pay to keep the data alive, either.

Rothken said Megaupload attempted to contact the U.S. Attorney’s office in order to persuade the government to unfreeze its assets, allowing the site to maintain Megaupload’s servers.

Whether Megaupload users get their files deleted or returned safely, the Federal shutdown has already caused a chilling effect in the world of (primarily legal) file sharing, prompting similar sites to fold or tighten rules.

Already, Megaupload users are fighting back. Uniting under a worldwide coalition of Pirate Parties—organizations that seek to protect the freedoms of Internet users—some are collecting data in order to bring a lawsuit against the U.S. government.

Photo by Viewoftheworld