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CMU Beef Of The Week #120: Bruce Leddy v Kim Dotcom

By | Published on Friday 27 July 2012

Kim Schmitz

Over the last few weeks MegaUpload founder Kim Dotcom has been leading a PR offensive as he faces extradition to the US to face copyright charges, positioning himself as an innocent victim of corporate entities and politicians out of control. Late last week he released a song on YouTube (which you can see below), positioning the MegaUpload shutdown as a free speech issue and an attack on the little people of the world.

Of course, the free speech argument doesn’t really make a huge amount of sense – sharing copyright material online is not exercising your right to free speech. However, being allowed to say that you think sharing copyright material online is exercising your right to free speech is, in fact, a right of free speech.

And so it was that last week that, via The Hollywood Reporter, Kim Dotcom published an open letter to Hollywood, asking it to let him get on with what he was doing before the US government had his site shut down and him arrested. He speaks of innovation (which anyone who ever tried to use MegaUpload should be laughing heartily at right now) and the freedom of people to access their own data. Even if they choose to store that data on a site whose core business is seemingly profiting off other people’s material. OK, he didn’t say that last bit quite like that. In fact, he doesn’t mention his own personal profit from the MegaUpload venture at all, just the potential profit for Hollywood if it would join him.

“Dear Hollywood”, he begins. “The internet frightens you. But history has taught us that the greatest innovations were built on rejections. The VCR frightened you, but it ended up making billions of dollars in video sales. You get so comfortable with your ways of doing business that any change is perceived as a threat. The problem is, we as a society don’t have a choice: The law of human nature is to communicate more efficiently”.

He continues: “Come on, guys, I am a computer nerd. I love Hollywood and movies. My whole life is like a movie. I wouldn’t be who I am if it wasn’t for the mind-altering glimpse at the future in ‘Star Wars’. I am at the forefront of creating the cool stuff that will allow creative works to thrive in an internet age. I have the solutions to your problems. I am not your enemy … Providing ‘freemium’ cloud storage to society is not a crime. What will Hollywood do when smartphones and tablets can wirelessly transfer a movie file within milliseconds?”

Finally, he concludes: “Regardless of the issues you have with new technologies, you can’t just engage armed forces halfway around the world, rip a peaceful man from his family, throw him in jail, terminate his business without a trial, take everything he owns without a hearing, deprive him of a fair chance to defend himself and do all that while your propaganda machine is destroying him in the media. Is that who you want to be? There can still be a happy ending. I am working on solutions. Just call me or my lawyers. You know where to find me. Unfortunately, I can only do lunch in New Zealand”.

Given a right of reply by The Reporter, Hollywood-based TV directior Bruce Leddy, who currently works on ABC sitcom ‘Cougar Town’, penned a response.

And so he began: “Hey, Kim! I read your letter to Hollywood in The Reporter, and I’m so happy you want to be friends! I mean, I’m just an average working ‘Hollywood’ guy and I don’t have any multimillionaire friends with mansions and Rolls-Royce Ghosts, so being buddies with you would make me soooo much cooler! All this stuff in the press about ‘who created what’ and ‘who should make money off of whose hard work’ is so boring, isn’t it? Let’s just agree to disagree! BFFs!”

He continues: “Personally, I’m tired of being a chump and writing and directing stuff for a decent wage when I could just as easily ‘share’ other people’s stuff on the internet and make huge money off it. So I’ve decided to start selling all your property on eBay, beginning with your pile of luxury cars. That Mercedes Brabus SV12 alone will easily pay for my kids’ college tuitions. I mean, sure, they don’t technically belong to me. But if I can find a country where they don’t really have rules about that kind of thing yet, I’m going to be living large! Probably change my name to Bruce Web$tarr. Extra ‘r’ for extra RICH! You like it?”

In conclusion, he writes: “And hey, you’re right; your life is like a movie. In fact, pirate movies have made like a bazillion dollars recently, and I bet we can get Depp or Cruise or someone on board. Let me know when you’re going to be free next, and we’ll grab a bite to discuss. I hear New Zealand is lovely”.

Of course, both men are painting pictures in black and white – trying to “change the facts to fit their views”, as Dotcom accuses Hollywood of doing in his letter – and the debate is not as rigid as either would have it. But at least they’re making this squabble entertaining. I’m not sure what’s funnier; the sarcasm of Leddy’s response or Kim Dotcom’s attempt to reinvent himself as some sort of freedom fighter.

Read Kim Dotcom’s letter in full here.

Read Bruce Leddy’s letter in full here.

And sample Kim Dotcom’s own contribution to music here: