Digital Legal MegaUpload Timeline

Apple co-founder confirms support for Dotcom

By | Published on Tuesday 26 June 2012

Kim Schmitz

After former MegaUpload chief Kim ‘Dotcom’ Schmitz posted a photo of himself with Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak when he returned to Twitter last week, the former Apple man has now spoken out in support of his new friend, who, of course, faces criminal charges of copyright infringement, money laundering and racketeering in the US.

Speaking to C-Net, Wozniak says he believes America’s case against Dotcom and the other former MegaUpload chiefs is unjust, partly by employing the classic ‘net companies are just postmen’ argument, but partly by insisting Dotcom et al were trying hard to reduce the illegal use of their file-transfer and video-sharing websites.

Wozniak: “When crimes occur through the mail, you don’t shut the post office down. When governments dream up charges of ‘racketeering’ for a typical IT guy who is just operating a file-sharing service, or accuse him of mail fraud because he said he had removed files [to alleged infringing content] when he’d just removed the links to them, this is evidence of how poorly thought out the attempt to extradite him is. Prosecutors are attempting to take advantage of loopholes. Too bad for the US government that Dotcom lives in New Zealand, which is better on human rights”.

He also criticised the US government for not allowing Dotcom et al sufficient access to their frozen funds to cover the legal costs of fighting the charges against them. He continued: “How unfair that the United States will allow him living expenses out of his frozen assets but not give him any legal fees. The side with access to the funds spends millions on lawyers hoping the other side goes bankrupt and gives in. Shame on the system that permits this one-sided advantage. [But] Kim is well enough liked and respected that his legal team is working without up-front payment”.

Adding that he was no fan of piracy, Wozniak concluded that he felt traditional content companies were too quick to see technical innovations and innovators as a threat, rather than working with them to open up new opportunities. He concluded: “I will note that Apple was the pioneer in finding the first good compromise [with the music industry over the legal distribution of MP3 files] with iTunes. Thank heavens that this wasn’t stopped at the beginning”.

Of course American prosecutors will argue that Dotcom et al had no intention of working with entertainment companies to generate new opportunities. Rather they recognised that quick commercial success could only be achieved by allowing (and encouraging) users to upload large amounts of unlicensed content, that other users would then flock to access, while hiding behind the ‘legitimate user’ and ‘DMCA takedown system’ defences when accused of contributory copyright infringement; even though – prosecutors will argue – legitimate users were never core to the business, and the DMCA takedown system was deliberately shoddy.

As much previously reported, the US is trying to extradite Dotcom and six other men, four in total from New Zealand, to face the various charges against them and their company. Defence lawyers, as well as denying all the charges made against their clients, also argue that the US cannot prosecute the MegaUpload corporate entity because it had no base in America, and that the personal charges against the Mega execs are not sufficiently serious to justify extradition.