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Former MegaUpload exec pleads guilty to copyright infringement, jailed for a year

By | Published on Monday 16 February 2015

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The former MegaUpload employee who suddenly showed up in the US last week has pleaded guilty to criminal copyright infringement, and on Friday was sentenced to a year and a day in jail. Which for a case that has gone more or less nowhere in three years (its main achievement to date being the deletion of thousands of files belonging to former MegaUpload customers) is quite a lot of progress in one week.

As previously reported, Andrus Nomm was one of seven men wanted by the US authorities for their role in running the one-time file-transfer service, an operation that – American prosecutors, Hollywood and the major record companies say – made millions on the back of industrial-level copyright infringement.

Unlike MegaUpload founder Kim Dotcom and three other of the targeted men, who have been busy fighting extradition to the US in New Zealand, Nomm and the two other Mega defendants were in Europe when the Americans shut down the file-transfer platform in 2012. Though Nomm, an Estonian residing in the Netherlands, was the only one of the Europe-based former Mega execs under the reach of an extradition treaty with the US. Leaving him on bail in Rotterdam facing an extradition hearing.

But then last week it emerged that Nomm had suddenly arrived in the US and had been promptly arrested. It was generally assumed he had gone to the States having done a deal with American prosecutors, with Kim Dotcom’s US-based lawyer Ira Rothken saying at the time: “Given he didn’t have any more resources, it was expected the US would take advantage. This is to be expected where the US Department Of Justice, in an experimental case, is trying to get folks scared and to testify in certain ways”.

Just how scared Nomm had become isn’t known, but he had indeed done a plea bargain deal with American prosecutors, agreeing to travel to the US without an extradition order and to plead guilty to various copyright crimes, in return for a more lenient sentence. For the feds, Nomm was a small player in the alleged ‘MegaUpload Conspiracy’, and prosecutors will be hoping his admissions will help their case against Dotcom et al down the line.

In a statement on Friday, the DoJ said Nomm had admitted that “he was aware that copyright-infringing content was stored on the [MegaUpload] websites” and that “harm caused to copyright holders by the Mega Conspiracy’s criminal conduct exceeded $400 million. He further acknowledged that the group obtained at least $175 million in proceeds through their conduct”. But despite this knowledge, the DoJ statement added, “Nomm continued to participate in the Mega conspiracy”.

After three years of navigating all kinds of legal complications in New Zealand as the DoJ tries to extradite Dotcom, so far without success, US Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell called Nomm’s arrest and conviction last week “a significant step forward in the largest criminal copyright case in US history”.

She added: “The Mega conspirators are charged with massive worldwide online piracy of movies, music and other copyrighted US works. We intend to see to it that all those responsible are held accountable for illegally enriching themselves by stealing the creative work of US artists and creators”.

For his part, Rothken labelled Friday’s developments a “publicity stunt”. Speaking to Torrentfreak, he said: “The DoJ apparently used Andrus Nomm’s weak financial condition and inability to fight back to manufacture a Hollywood-style publicity stunt in the form of a scripted guilty plea in court. [But] the facts mentioned in court, like a lack of cloud filtering of copyrighted works, are civil secondary copyright issues not criminal issues”.

That’s an important distinction, because the US needs to prove that there is a case for criminal copyright infringement here to successfully extradite Dotcom from New Zealand.

Rothken continued: “The DoJ apparently convinced Andrus Nomm to say the conclusory phrase that Kim Dotcom ‘did not care about protecting copyrights’ and such point shows off the weakness in the DoJ’s case as MegaUpload, amongst many other ways of caring, had a robust copyright notice and takedown system which gave direct delete access to major content owners and from which millions of links were removed”.

Meanwhile on Twitter, Dotcom himself said: “I have nothing but compassion and understanding for Andrus Nomm and I hope he will soon be reunited with his son”, though later he added that a witness for the defence had heard his former colleague say “I would sign anything to get out of this mess”.

So one down, six to go. Though getting Dotcom to America to face the heat ain’t going to be so easy.



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