New Zealand’s High Court has ruled that Kim Dotcom, the internet entrepreneur accused of masterminding one of the largest copyright infringements in history, and three accomplices can be extradited to face trial in the US.
The judgment is a victory for the US department of Justice, which has fought a near five-year legal battle to have the 43-year-old German stand trial on copyright infringement and money laundering charges related to his file sharing site Megaupload.
“The District Court judgment finding that the appellants are eligible for surrender to the United States on all counts in the indictment is confirmed,” said the High Court in a ruling.
The High Court rejected an appeal by the four men against a District Court judgement in December 2015, which backed extradition to the US. The High Court judge on Monday ruled there were errors in the original District Court decision, which found extradition was legal, but that those errors were immaterial because there are available pathways for extradition on the charges levied against the four men.
Mr Dotcom is a flamboyant entrepreneur who has had up to $50m in assets frozen by authorities, including a Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupé and a 1959 pink Cadillac. He criticised the judgment, tweeting to his followers: “Extradition judgement in a nutshell: We won but we lost anyway.”
“I’m no longer getting extradited for copyright. We won on that. I’m now getting extradited for a law that doesn’t even apply,” said Mr Dotcom.
Ron Mansfield, barrister for Mr Dotcom’s legal team, said he was disappointed by the decision and the defendants planned to appeal the decision to New Zealand’s Court of Appeal.
“The last hurdle to what we say is the correct outcome — no extradition — will now need to be determined by the Court of Appeal,” he said.
In 2012, the Federal Bureau of Investigation shut down the Megaupload site, which it described as a huge online piracy operation that generated $175m in illegal profits and cost film studios and music companies more than $500m.
US authorities claim that downloads of pirated movies and music through Megaupload at its peak were responsible for 4 per cent of global internet traffic — although the site’s defenders insist that not all of that material was illegal.
Intellectual property experts say the case is important as it demonstrates US determination to pursue those who facilitate piracy by encouraging the use of online services.
“This is one of the biggest criminal cases being pursued by US authorities — it sends a signal that copyright laws will be enforced,” said Alex Hutchens, a technology lawyer at McCullough Robertson.
“It could become one of the first tests of the US’s Digital Millennium Copyright Act and its safe harbour provisions in the cloud storage environment.”
The other three defendants are Mathias Ortmann, Bram van der Kolk and Finn Batato.
Mr Dotcom, who was born in Germany and christened Kim Schmitz, set up and funded a New Zealand political party, the Internet party, to campaign for greater internet freedom. It contested a general election in September 2014 but did not win a seat.
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