Digital Legal MegaUpload Timeline

Dotcom says it’s not his job to “police what people are uploading”

By | Published on Monday 19 November 2012

Kim Schmitz

MegaUpload founder Kim ‘Dotcom’ Schmitz has said that neither he nor his company should be held liable for any unlicensed music or movie files distributed via his former file-transfer and video-sharing website, arguing that the Mega venture was just “a hard drive that was connected to the internet”.

As much previously reported, MegaUpload was shut down by the US authorities in January, and Dotcom and his fellow former Mega execs are facing charges of money laundering, racketeering and copyright infringement. Dotcom currently lives in New Zealand, and is fighting efforts to extradite him to the US, while planning the launch of a new version of MegaUpload to be based outside the jurisdiction of the American courts and authorities.

According to Bloomberg, Dotcom told a New Zealand TV show this weekend: “You can’t blame me if people upload something to a website we have created for online storage, it’s not my responsibility. I’m not doing it [uploading the infringing content] and I’m not providing anyone with links to that content. We are a hard drive that is connected to the internet. What you do with it is your responsibility”.

Now, the US is also accusing the original MegaUpload of basically hiring people to upload infringing content to its platform, much of it ripped straight off YouTube, in order to ensure that the sort of content that generated mega-traffic was on the Mega platform, so prosecutors would disagree with Dotcom’s claim “I’m not doing it”.

But even if those allegations do not stand up in court, Dotcom’s defence that “you can’t blame me if people upload something to my website” isn’t very strong either, not under American copyright law, where generally the courts have ruled that the providers of software or online platforms that enable others to infringe copyright do have a duty to limit such use, or face liability for contributory infringement.

In reality, Dotcom’s lawyers are actually likely to fight the case, should it ever reach an American court room, not by saying “you can’t blame us if people infringe”, but by questioning how far the duty of a digital firm to limit infringing use of its service goes.

That obligation stems from the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and US judges have generally ruled that a very basic takedown system, that removes infringing content when a rights owner alerts the digital firm to it, is sufficient for said digital firm to be protected from infringement claims. The music and movie majors will tell you that MegaUpload’s takedown system was very, very basic, but Dotcom’s lawyers will likely argue that is still sufficient.

Nevertheless, in his interview Dotcom continued with his argument that technology firms just can’t be expected to “police what people are uploading”, and that therefore copyright owners need to “come up with new solutions that deal with the reality of the world we’re living in”.