Kim Dotcom: The Copyright Case that Should End but Won't

It has been six years since the compound of Kim Dotcom (né Kim Schmitz), a Finnish-German dual national, was raided, north of Auckland, New Zealand.  The official reason given was that his company, Megaupload, was facilitating criminal file-sharing of copyrighted movie and media files.

Kim Dotcom is not a flawless figure.  He was somewhat of a famous hacker in Europe, who had relocated to the South Pacific.  Everyone who meets Kim, such as Steven Wozniak (8:25 – Campbell Live) seems to find him personable.  What also comes across to the observant is that Kim is rather immature; he brags about his championship computer gaming skills.

Kim does have a criminal record – mostly black-hat hacking – but he claims, with some validity, that the last charge of insider trading in Germany was bogus, and he merely took a plea deal.

Kim was considered a flight risk and spent five months in jail before being offered probation and a small fine if he'd plead guilty.  "I was just tired," Kim says. ... "So I took the deal.  And there's nothing I regret more.  Because if I hadn't pled, I wouldn't have had that 'career criminal' label.  And I wouldn't be here today."

His reputation preceded him, and the U.S. government paints him as a criminal mastermind rather than the hacking teenager who refused to grow up that he really is.

Kim and his associates ran a site called Megaupload, an early version of cloud storage, which was used by many to upload and share copyrighted media.  Hollywood was furious, but as a matter of fact, Megaupload was not the only website running such a storage system.  Dropbox was started in 2007.  In reality, Kim claims he worked with Hollywood to reduce piracy, and there seems to be some evidence of that.

Yet, the company also appeared to follow many of the regular industry practices related to taking down infringing content when publishers requested it through what are known as takedown notices.

At the time, Hollywood media moguls were still involved in a failing effort to get Congress to pass SOPA (the Stop Online Piracy Act), and Kim was portrayed as the major villain stealing Hollywood's profits.  He became a poster boy for what was actually a worldwide phenomenon.

Under such a spotlight, any mature businessman would have lain low, but Kim, with all the bravado of a 15-year-old, released a major internet commercial bragging about Megaupload, using famous music stars.  Kim even gave himself a starring role in the video (starting at 1:23 and going for 30 seconds).  It was like waving a red flag in front of Hollywood and the U.S. government.  The video went viral.  Soon after, Kim's compound was raided.

Kim was rubbing his success in Hollywood's face.  What could one expect from a man who had luxury cars with vanity license plates like "God," "Mafia," and "Evil"? 

Okay, so Kim had never grown up – but does that mean he was guilty of such major pirating and money-laundering as the government claims?  He certainly made himself an easy target.

The Department of Justice alleges Dotcom together with Mathias Ortmann, Bram van der Kolk and Finn Batato were members of a worldwide criminal organization which engaged in copyright infringement and money laundering, costing copyright holders more than $500 million.

The basic fact is that Kim Dotcom was doing only what other file storage platforms (see 7:03 at the link) were doing.

Thus in terms of the timing and even in terms of the legal arguments, the U.S. government's attack on the website felt like it was acting as an arm of the recording industry and Hollywood.  Why else go so heavy and so hard against Megaupload, with a case that to some experts seemed overblown.

Presently, the U.S. government handling of the case has been so egregious that Kim has become sort of a hero standing up to a bully.

The National Security Agency (NSA) illegally used technology to spy on Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom, according to new documents from New Zealand's Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB).

The raid on his house was over the top, as if Kim were Osama bin Laden.  When videos of the raid hit the internet, people were outraged.  The search warrants were invalid.  The N.Z. government has admitted to illegally spying on Kim.

Soon after the raid, Kim provided this major gem to the media, which seems to exonerate him.

DotCom also brought up another interesting point during the interview.  He said that while individual copyright owners had been critical of the service, not one major film studio or record company had ever filed suit against MegaUpload [sic] or even sent him a cease and desist letter.

Megaupload's "free" service plan was rather limited, and it had no easy search option.  One couldn't just search for the newest movie release.  And the 1GB limit was too small for a movie DVD.  This was not a user-friendly service for those seeking to download movies.  This was not like Napster.

On TV, Kim added (6:50 at the link) that he allowed studios unfettered open access to his servers to remove links, which must have really been a humiliating admission for a former hacker.

It has come out, as the government case is crumbling, that the government may charge Kim with sharing movie files among his partners.  That's it?  That may not be even actionable, if he bought the original DVD.

Of course, now some American media outlets claim that New Zealand is fed up with Kim.  How much of that is Hollywood spin is anyone's guess.  If one goes to techie sites, or outside the loop of American media outlets, Kim Dotcom is still a techie rock star who has frustrated the U.S. government for years.

Recently, under the pretext of Kim being a fugitive from justice, the U.S. Supreme Court has allowed the forfeiture of Kim's seized assets.  But Kim is not running from anyone.  He is fighting through the New Zealand court system.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected New Zealand-based internet mogul Kim Dotcom's challenge to the U.S. government's bid to seize assets held [outside the U.S.] by him.

All of this raises a deep question.  Who is looking more foolish: Kim or the U.S. government's prosecution?  The New Zealand government has already admitted that copyright cases were not criminal under New Zealand law at that time.

But if there was no copyright crime, where was the fraud?  The money-laundering case may fall apart. 

While Kim still lives extravagantly, one of his associates, Finn Batato, the advertising manager, is living week to week in New Zealand.  Finn is a tragicomic case.  He flew in to New Zealand only for Kim's birthday party when the raid occurred.  Had he remained in Europe, he would be a free man, as the Germans have refused to extradite Sven Echternach, another Megaupload associate.

Finn has to work with a court-appointed defense attorney while he lives on a small allowance from a bank account frozen while the case goes on.

Kim claims that this case was spurred on by Barack Obama just to please his Hollywood supporters, and he seems to have a good case.  However, with the change of administration, the case has not been dropped.  The Deep State runs deep.

Kim Dotcom is not exactly a stellar hero in anyone's book.  He is quite bombastic, albeit personable.  However, the origin of this case, and its implementation, is so muddled that one wonders if Hollywood, and the U.S. government's handling of the case, is not far more embarrassing than anything Kim Dotcom did, if he did anything at all.  He will never get a fair trial here in America.

The case should be dropped, and Kim should be told to grow up.  The U.S. government should leave Kim alone.

Mike Konrad is the pen name of an American who wishes he had availed himself more fully of the opportunity to learn Spanish better in high school, lo those many decades ago.  He runs a website about the Arab community in South America at http://latinarabia.com and a website about small computers at http://thetinydesktop.com.

Image: Robert O'Neill via Wikimedia Commons.

It has been six years since the compound of Kim Dotcom (né Kim Schmitz), a Finnish-German dual national, was raided, north of Auckland, New Zealand.  The official reason given was that his company, Megaupload, was facilitating criminal file-sharing of copyrighted movie and media files.

Kim Dotcom is not a flawless figure.  He was somewhat of a famous hacker in Europe, who had relocated to the South Pacific.  Everyone who meets Kim, such as Steven Wozniak (8:25 – Campbell Live) seems to find him personable.  What also comes across to the observant is that Kim is rather immature; he brags about his championship computer gaming skills.

Kim does have a criminal record – mostly black-hat hacking – but he claims, with some validity, that the last charge of insider trading in Germany was bogus, and he merely took a plea deal.

Kim was considered a flight risk and spent five months in jail before being offered probation and a small fine if he'd plead guilty.  "I was just tired," Kim says. ... "So I took the deal.  And there's nothing I regret more.  Because if I hadn't pled, I wouldn't have had that 'career criminal' label.  And I wouldn't be here today."

His reputation preceded him, and the U.S. government paints him as a criminal mastermind rather than the hacking teenager who refused to grow up that he really is.

Kim and his associates ran a site called Megaupload, an early version of cloud storage, which was used by many to upload and share copyrighted media.  Hollywood was furious, but as a matter of fact, Megaupload was not the only website running such a storage system.  Dropbox was started in 2007.  In reality, Kim claims he worked with Hollywood to reduce piracy, and there seems to be some evidence of that.

Yet, the company also appeared to follow many of the regular industry practices related to taking down infringing content when publishers requested it through what are known as takedown notices.

At the time, Hollywood media moguls were still involved in a failing effort to get Congress to pass SOPA (the Stop Online Piracy Act), and Kim was portrayed as the major villain stealing Hollywood's profits.  He became a poster boy for what was actually a worldwide phenomenon.

Under such a spotlight, any mature businessman would have lain low, but Kim, with all the bravado of a 15-year-old, released a major internet commercial bragging about Megaupload, using famous music stars.  Kim even gave himself a starring role in the video (starting at 1:23 and going for 30 seconds).  It was like waving a red flag in front of Hollywood and the U.S. government.  The video went viral.  Soon after, Kim's compound was raided.

Kim was rubbing his success in Hollywood's face.  What could one expect from a man who had luxury cars with vanity license plates like "God," "Mafia," and "Evil"? 

Okay, so Kim had never grown up – but does that mean he was guilty of such major pirating and money-laundering as the government claims?  He certainly made himself an easy target.

The Department of Justice alleges Dotcom together with Mathias Ortmann, Bram van der Kolk and Finn Batato were members of a worldwide criminal organization which engaged in copyright infringement and money laundering, costing copyright holders more than $500 million.

The basic fact is that Kim Dotcom was doing only what other file storage platforms (see 7:03 at the link) were doing.

Thus in terms of the timing and even in terms of the legal arguments, the U.S. government's attack on the website felt like it was acting as an arm of the recording industry and Hollywood.  Why else go so heavy and so hard against Megaupload, with a case that to some experts seemed overblown.

Presently, the U.S. government handling of the case has been so egregious that Kim has become sort of a hero standing up to a bully.

The National Security Agency (NSA) illegally used technology to spy on Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom, according to new documents from New Zealand's Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB).

The raid on his house was over the top, as if Kim were Osama bin Laden.  When videos of the raid hit the internet, people were outraged.  The search warrants were invalid.  The N.Z. government has admitted to illegally spying on Kim.

Soon after the raid, Kim provided this major gem to the media, which seems to exonerate him.

DotCom also brought up another interesting point during the interview.  He said that while individual copyright owners had been critical of the service, not one major film studio or record company had ever filed suit against MegaUpload [sic] or even sent him a cease and desist letter.

Megaupload's "free" service plan was rather limited, and it had no easy search option.  One couldn't just search for the newest movie release.  And the 1GB limit was too small for a movie DVD.  This was not a user-friendly service for those seeking to download movies.  This was not like Napster.

On TV, Kim added (6:50 at the link) that he allowed studios unfettered open access to his servers to remove links, which must have really been a humiliating admission for a former hacker.

It has come out, as the government case is crumbling, that the government may charge Kim with sharing movie files among his partners.  That's it?  That may not be even actionable, if he bought the original DVD.

Of course, now some American media outlets claim that New Zealand is fed up with Kim.  How much of that is Hollywood spin is anyone's guess.  If one goes to techie sites, or outside the loop of American media outlets, Kim Dotcom is still a techie rock star who has frustrated the U.S. government for years.

Recently, under the pretext of Kim being a fugitive from justice, the U.S. Supreme Court has allowed the forfeiture of Kim's seized assets.  But Kim is not running from anyone.  He is fighting through the New Zealand court system.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected New Zealand-based internet mogul Kim Dotcom's challenge to the U.S. government's bid to seize assets held [outside the U.S.] by him.

All of this raises a deep question.  Who is looking more foolish: Kim or the U.S. government's prosecution?  The New Zealand government has already admitted that copyright cases were not criminal under New Zealand law at that time.

But if there was no copyright crime, where was the fraud?  The money-laundering case may fall apart. 

While Kim still lives extravagantly, one of his associates, Finn Batato, the advertising manager, is living week to week in New Zealand.  Finn is a tragicomic case.  He flew in to New Zealand only for Kim's birthday party when the raid occurred.  Had he remained in Europe, he would be a free man, as the Germans have refused to extradite Sven Echternach, another Megaupload associate.

Finn has to work with a court-appointed defense attorney while he lives on a small allowance from a bank account frozen while the case goes on.

Kim claims that this case was spurred on by Barack Obama just to please his Hollywood supporters, and he seems to have a good case.  However, with the change of administration, the case has not been dropped.  The Deep State runs deep.

Kim Dotcom is not exactly a stellar hero in anyone's book.  He is quite bombastic, albeit personable.  However, the origin of this case, and its implementation, is so muddled that one wonders if Hollywood, and the U.S. government's handling of the case, is not far more embarrassing than anything Kim Dotcom did, if he did anything at all.  He will never get a fair trial here in America.

The case should be dropped, and Kim should be told to grow up.  The U.S. government should leave Kim alone.

Mike Konrad is the pen name of an American who wishes he had availed himself more fully of the opportunity to learn Spanish better in high school, lo those many decades ago.  He runs a website about the Arab community in South America at http://latinarabia.com and a website about small computers at http://thetinydesktop.com.

Image: Robert O'Neill via Wikimedia Commons.