A judge in New Zealand ruled Wednesday that Internet entrepreneur Kim Dotcom, along with three colleagues, can now be extradited to the US to face criminal copyright charges.
It’s been four years since US authorities shut down the file-sharing website Megaupload and police raided Kim Dotcom’s luxury mansion. Megaupload was once one of the most popular file-sharing sites on the Internet, with millions of users.
According to prosecutors, the website was used by people to mainly illegally upload and download TV shows, movies, and music, and they estimate the site would have pulled in at least $175 million during its lifetime.
The Guardian reports Kim Dotcom and his three colleagues stand accused by the US of conspiracy to commit copyright infringement, racketeering, and money laundering, crimes which would lead to them spending decades in jail.
— Gizmodo (@Gizmodo) December 23, 2015
Fast forward four years, and Judge Nevin Dawson has on Wednesday ruled that the four men can be extradited to the US to face these charges. Reportedly, lawyers acting for Kim Dotcom and his colleagues have filed an appeal against the judge’s decision, but the appeals are likely to take at least a year.
Judge Dawson had to decide whether the US had a valid case against Kim Dotcom and his colleagues, but not whether he thought they were guilty or innocent of the alleged crimes. Dawson said after the nine-week hearing that “the overwhelming preponderance of evidence establishes a prima facie case to answer for all respondents on each of the counts.”
According to Dotcom’s lawyer, Ron Mansfield, the case will end up in New Zealand’s highest court, as “the legal issues are so interesting and complex.”
Interview with my lawyer Ron Mansfield about our appeal. “I have no doubt it will go to the Supreme Court”. https://t.co/xUXxDgeP9l
— Kim Dotcom (@KimDotcom) December 23, 2015
All along, Kim Dotcom has argued that he cannot be held responsible for the actions of others who chose to use his website for illegal purposes and said that the case should, if anything, have been heard in civil court.
Authorities in the US theorize the website cost copyright holders, including Hollywood’s major movie studios, more than $500 million in losses. According to the prosecution, communications had been intercepted in which the men talked about being “modern-day pirates” and “evil.”
Since his arrest in New Zealand back in 2012 in a dramatic police raid on the family’s mansion, Kim Dotcom first released a music album and then launched another Internet file-sharing website called Mega. Dotcom has also gotten involved in politics, launching a political party which was unsuccessful in the 2014 New Zealand elections.
German-born Dotcom, who originally went under the name Kim Schmitz, has lived a flamboyant lifestyle in New Zealand and has never, apparently, set foot in the U.S. Dotcom was the principal shareholder in Megaupload and, in conjunction with his colleagues Mathias Ortmann, Bram van der Kolk, and Finn Batato, is now faced with the possibility of being extradited there.
I never lived there I never traveled there I had no company there But all I worked for now belongs to the U.S. https://t.co/l3B0Cuj0tr
— Kim Dotcom (@KimDotcom) March 29, 2015
Should the extradition happen and Kim Dotcom and his colleagues be charged, this could have broader implications for Internet copyright rules. In a recent interview with the NZ Herald, Dotcom said that 15 years ago, a copyright case like this would have led to a slap on the wrist; now it could mean 80 years in jail.
The case also raises questions about just how far US jurisdiction can extend in a world where the Internet straddles so many borders.
At present, Kim Dotcom and his colleagues remain free pending their appeals against the Judge’s decision. According to New Zealand Justice Minister Amy Adams, she will have to wait for the conclusion of any appeals before making a final decision in the matter and even then, her decision can be subjected to judicial review.
Dotcom wrote on Twitter before the hearing: “This is my weirdest Xmas ever.” Since then, the larger-than-life Internet entrepreneur and family man has announced that nothing will spoil their Christmas.
Don’t you worry. Nobody is ruining our Christmas! All good! pic.twitter.com/0QrV6guJBk
— Kim Dotcom (@KimDotcom) December 23, 2015
Watch the NZ Herald interview with Dotcom below.
[Photo by Fiona Goodall/Getty Images]