Remember so-not-a-pirate Kim Dotcom? New Zealand’s highest court has just said the USA can extradite him for copyright naughtiness
But first, he gets a judicial review and chance to extend eight-year legal saga
New Zealand’s highest court has ruled that Kim Dotcom can be extradited to the United States of America to face charges of copyright infringement.
In the early 2000s Dotcom founded a cloud storage locker called Megaupload that, at a time before streaming video became widespread, attracted more than a few folks who uploaded and shared pirated movies and the like. Dotcom always maintained that he was shocked – so very shocked! – that anyone would abuse his service in such illegal ways, though he also offered rewards to users who shared widely downloaded files.
It wasn’t long before copyright cops took an interest in Megaupload. Dotcom thought he had stayed one step ahead of the law by wining New Zealand residency on a visa reserved for investors who bring more than NZ$10m in the country.
Dotcom arrived in 2010, obtained a colossal mansion with sports cars to match, and gave an infamous interview to WiReD in which he revealed that he slept on hand-made mattresses that cost $103,000 apiece.
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In 2012 he was charged with conspiracy to commit copyright theft and money laundering by US authorities. His house was raided, and assets seized.
He’s been in New Zealand fighting those charges, the legality of the raids, and extradition to America to face trial ever since. He also found time to create a new file locker, record albums (he’s on Spotify) and run for Parliament.
He also ran court case after court case to prevent his extradition, and they achieved that aim even if he never scored a definitive win. Most recently, New Zealand’s courts have spent years considering whether the extradition treaty between the USA and New Zealand applies in Dotcom’s case, with the accused arguing he could be prosecuted without leaving his adopted home.
New Zealand’s Supreme Court today decided [PDF] that’s not correct and that Dotcom and his co-defendants can be hauled off to the USA – but only to face copyright-related charges because New Zealand doesn’t have money-laundering laws that match America's.
The Supremes also considered a decision in a lower court that found Dotcom could not seek a judicial review of his case. The Supreme Court today decided that was incorrect, and Dotcom is entitled to a review of the process.
“The Court of Appeal was in error in concluding that the judicial review proceedings were an abuse of process,” the latest judgment stated. So Dotcom can have another crack at staying in New Zealand.
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He’s not entirely happy about it. A statement from his lawyers labelled the decision “a mixed bag” because while it allows him an appeal, the court ignored his arguments that Megaupload should – like an ISP – not be held liable for its users’ activities.
The internet baron believes rejecting that argument “will have an immediate and chilling impact on the Internet.” His lawyers also said Dotcom welcomes the chance to see through his judicial review.
That legal action will almost certainly roll into 2021, meaning Dotcom will have been fighting the case for over eight years.
But at least he will be fighting it in New Zealand, where community transmission of coronavirus has basically ended. Plenty would love to join him there for that reason alone, never mind the scenery, excellent Chardonnays, skiing, sailing, and hiking opportunities. Maybe Dotcom is also eyeing up mischief in the new Azure region coming to New Zealand any year now. ®