The long-awaited extradition hearing of Kim Dotcom finally got underway last week, as a court in Auckland, New Zealand began to listen to arguments in favor of sending the piracy figurehead to the USA to face justice.
It’s no secret that Dotcom has polarized public opinion over the months and years since his file-sharing service Megaupload was shut down by US authorities in 2012. To some, he is the face of the “information wants to be free” argument, suffering persecution for their cause. To others, including the creators on whose back his company Megaupload crassly profited, he is simply a fraudster who has managed to evade the law… until now.
The latter is the case that the prosecution will make as they try to make the case that the self-styled “Bond villain” of piracy has crimes to answer for in the United States. The early appeals have been for the judge to disregard the distractions raised by Dotcom’s offline antics, from luxurious mansion-living of his Antipodean exile to his poorly-executed political career. Instead, prosecutors point to the “simple scheme of fraud” perpetrated by the service’s founder and his three cohorts at Megaupload.
That scheme includes not just offering unlicensed content for download, as is bad enough and so many sites continue to do. No, Megaupload was much more manipulative in its climb to the top of the piracy site standings. The site created a reward structure that incentivized subscribers to seek out popular content and share it, in exchange for features and financial benefits depending on the demand for what they offered. The site was not innovative, as its owners claimed, nor was it making the requested and required steps to remove unlicensed content that Dotcom told authorities were in progress.
Consider the gall of offering something that others work hard to create, without paying for the privilege to make it available, then making users pay for that access without passing anything on. Throw in the profits from advertising and you have hundred of millions of dollars generated, for doing nothing more than creating a cloud storage system full of content you have no right to offer.
The case of Kim Dotcom typifies both the difficulty that authorities face in protecting home-grown talent on the global stage and the progress that can be made when national organizations work together to ensure that no-one is out of reach.
Although the distraction and theater surrounding Dotcom means it has taken years to get to this point, and will take longer still to get him to the US to answer the charges against him, the results will speak for creators everywhere. Intellectual property is protected by copyright law and that law forces piracy advocates .
Even when it takes years, the case of Kim Dotcom and the fate of his peers shows that there is nowhere for piracy profiteers to hide, regardless of how long it takes to make them face justice.