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Kim Dotcom extradition hearing finally underway

By | Published on Friday 25 September 2015


More than three and half years after the US authorities took controversial file-transfer service MegaUpload offline, the extradition hearing of its founder Kim Dotcom and three other men involved in running the company finally kicked off yesterday after a multitude of delays. Indeed, had the Mega men’s attorneys got their way, the whole thing would have been postponed again this week, maybe even into next year.

That request for further postponement was denied, and so things have finally cranked into action as American prosecutors try to extradite Dotcom et al from their current home in New Zealand over to the States to face allegations of money laundering, racketeering and rampant copyright infringement in relation to their former enterprise.

“In the long prelude to this hearing much has been said about the novelty and technicality of the case”, said Christine Gordon, speaking for the US government in the Auckland District Court. But don’t be fooled, she went on, according to the New Zealand Herald. “When distractions are stripped away, it boils down to a simple scheme of fraud”, she said.

Embellishing a little, Gordon ran through the key allegations against the MegaUpload men, most of which first emerged shortly after the 2012 raid on their operations. Dotcom and his team made millions from advertisers and subscriptions, even though most of the traffic on their site was people accessing illegally uploaded content.

Not only that, but the firm allegedly had a scheme that rewarded users for driving traffic to the website, which basically meant uploading unlicensed music, movies and TV shows. But at the same time MegaUpload told copyright owners they were complying with obligations under US law to remove infringing material.

Acknowledging the much moaned about problem with the takedown systems that user-upload websites provide copyright owners – that users just re-upload the same content as soon as it’s been removed – Gordon said that, with the MegaUpload operation, you had “the incredible spectacle of processing takedown notices while at the same time paying many of those same repeat offenders”.

The former MegaUpload chiefs, of course, will claim that their operation – like those of other file-transfer platforms and video sharing sites like YouTube – was protected by the safe harbours of American copyright law, which say that, provided you do the takedown thing, you can’t be held liable for your users uploading infringing content. Even if your takedown system is pretty ropey, for the reasons Gordon explained.

The prosecution’s rep said that MegaUpload was different because it was rewarding the infringers who provided it with a steady stream of illegal files, ensuring taken down content wasn’t down for long. She also cited various correspondence between the accused which allegedly acknowledged the illegality of their operation, adding that the MegaUpload team “sometimes enjoyed the fact they were making money by breaking the law”.

Among the online comments Gordon cited was Dotcom urging his colleagues not to log chats because there is “too much shit in there” and “at some point a judge will be convinced about how evil we are – then we’re in trouble”.

Meanwhile one of his colleagues predicted the firm’s operations may be shut down, expressing surprise it hadn’t happened sooner, and adding: “If copyright holders would really know how big our business is they’d surely try to do something against it. They have no idea we are making millions in profit every month”.

So, plenty to be getting on with, though – of course – the purpose of this hearing is to decide whether the allegations against Dotcom et al are covered by the extradition treaty between New Zealand and the USA. The MegaUpload team are sure to provide plenty of arguments as to why they are not, before even tackling the allegations under US law.

The extradition hearing is expected to last for about four weeks.