An Unlikely Folk Hero
Last March, I blogged about Kim Dotcom , the Internet multimillionaire the FBI is trying to extradite to the US on Internet piracy charges. In brief the FBI is accusing the founder of Mega Upload of illegal file sharing and copyright violation. Dotcom, much of the New Zealand media and Internet freedom activist Jacob Appelbaum contend that the US government has no case.
If Dotcom’s Guilty, So Is YouTube
If Dotcom is guilty, so are dozens of other “cloud” Internet providers (for example YouTube) that provide bandwidth for uploading and sharing large files. Like YouTube, Dotcom deliberately built a number of precautionary measures into Mega Upload to protect the motion picture and music industry against illegal file sharing that violates their copyright protections. The first is the Terms of Service Agreement all Mega Upload users were required to tick. In it they agreed not to share copyrighted material, but only files that they themselves had produced. The second was file deletion rights Mega Upload granted their 180 partners, which included every single member of the Motion Picture Association and many music studios. As Dotcom points out, this isn’t a legal requirement (YouTube doesn’t grant automatic deletion rights) but something he did voluntarily. This is in addition to the 15 million files Mega Upload deleted at the request of copyright holders.
US Laws Protecting “Cloud” Servers
Dotcom is also extremely knowledgeable about US laws that protect “cloud” servers, which legally are categorized as Internet service providers (ISPs). The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is very explicit that ISPs are in no way responsible for copyright violations of third party users, other than to take down illegal files that are reported to them. Because of privacy protections in the Electronic Communication Privacy Act, ISPs are forbidden from examining files posted by their patrons. Thus they have no way of knowing they contain copyright violations unless content providers notify them.
Our Own Julian Assange
Dotcom has become a kind of folk hero in New Zealand, our own Julian Assange. Kiwis are aware the US government has stripped most of its own citizens of their civil liberties and happily champion anyone (even multimillionaires) brave enough to take on Big Brother.
NZ Court Rulings in Dotcom’s Favor
Unlike Assange’s experience in Britain, Dotcom is faring pretty well in New Zealand Courts
New Zealand courts. Thus far the FBI has refused to share the evidence against Dotcom with his defense team (sound familiar?). All they been willing to provide is a summary of the charges. The judge presiding over the upcoming extradition hearing disagrees. In May Judge David Harvey ruled that Dotcom’s lawyers should have access to information collated against him by the FBI. The Obama administration (predictably) has appealed the ruling, objecting that it’s outside the treaty agreement New Zealand has with the US on extradition. The action has struck an extremely negative chord with the New Zealand public, who still regard New Zealand as a sovereign country with a bill of rights guaranteeing all the civil liberties Americans used to enjoy under the US Constitution.
Dotcom’s ability to defend himself again extradition is especially difficult, as he no longer has access to computers, servers and computer files the New Zealand police seized (on behalf of the FBI), which are now in the US.
Last week New Zealand High Court judge Helen Winkelmen ruled that the warrants authorizing the search and seizure were illegal. She also ruled it was illegal for Dotcom’s computer data (which the FBI now refuses to share with his defense attorney) be taken offshore.
What Did Joe Biden Meet with the MPAA About?
Dotcom accuses United States Vice-President Joe Biden of masterminding the case against him. He says Hollywood bigwigs pressured the US Government to take down his website in a series of meetings about six months before New Zealand police (acting on the US extradition request) raided his Auckland home. He has evidence documenting meetings between all the studio executives in the Motion Pictures Association of America (MPAA) and Biden. One executive later met, Mike Ellis, later met with former New Zealand justice minister Simon Power. The head of the MPAA disputes this. He claims the purpose of the meeting with Biden was to discuss America’s World Trade Association (WTO) complaint against China and the importance of getting more American films into the country.
Dotcom is in the process of creating a website to make all the evidence public. I can hardly wait.
 Kim Dotcom was born (in Germany) Kim Schmitz and changed his surname by deed poll.
 Cloud computing refers broadly to a range of Internet services that allow files to be uploaded to a remote site.