The New Zealand Court of Appeals has ruled that founder of the now-defunct file sharing website Megaupload, Kim Dotcom, can be extradited to the U.S., upholding the decision of the High Court and District Court. The court also upheld the decision that Mattias Ortmann, Bram van der Kolk, and Finn Batato, all accused of copyright infringement and fraud, along with Dotcom, can be extradited to the U.S. for trial as well. Whether New Zealand’s Justice Minister Andrew Little will agree and allow extradition to take place is yet to be seen.
Established in 2005 and based in Hong Kong, Megaupload was possibly the single largest file sharing site of its time. Over the lifetime of the site, Megaupload had 180,000,000 registered users that helped account for over 1 billion page views according to the indictment filed against the site. The indictment further laid the groundwork for a potential case of criminal conspiracy based on the site encouraging users to store copyrighted material on Megaupload.
When the site was seized and shut down in January of 2012, it was estimated by federal prosecutors that the site had cost copyright holders about $500 million dollars. A request to New Zealand for Dotcom and his partners was issued by the U.S. in March of the same year. Several hearings followed, culminating in today’s decision handed down by the Court of Appeals to allow extradition.
Where matters get complicated is that at this time, Dotcom and his partners can only be extradited to the U.S. to stand trial for fraud as that is also a crime in New Zealand. The U.S. may not, at this time, try Dotcom and his associates for copyright infringement as New Zealand law allows for the online communication of copyrighted works. This falls far short of what the U.S. Justice Department had hoped for. Furthermore, Dotcom still has more appeals on the case in New Zealand which could put any extradition claims on hold until his final appeal in New Zealand is concluded.
Ira Rothken, who represents Dotcom, tweeted,
Radio New Zealand reported that the court said an extradition hearing was not a trial on the merits of the case, and the evidence relied on by the United States “disclosed a clear prima facie case to support the allegations that the appellants conspired to, and did, breach copyright wilfully and on a massive scale for commercial gain.”
New Zealand’s immigration department has stated that they have reached a decision on their recommendation regarding extradition, but will not disclose their recommendation until appeals are concluded.