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New Zealand court says MegaUpload men can be extradited to US

By | Published on Wednesday 23 December 2015


Nearly four years after the US authorities shut down often controversial file-transfer service MegaUpload, a New Zealand court has ruled that its former management – including founder Kim Dotcom – can be extradited to the States to face charges of money laundering, racketeering and rampant copyright infringement.

As much previously reported, Dotcom et al’s extradition hearing was postponed multiple times because of an assortment of legal technicalities, but finally got underway in September.

Though legal reps for the MegaUpload managers argued that their clients weren’t getting a fair hearing because of limits on the ways they could spend money seized and then released from their former company. They tried on several occasions to postpone matters yet again, but were ultimately forced to present arguments against the prosecution’s case for extradition.

The issue at the heart of the extradition hearing was whether or not the crimes the defendants are accused of are covered by the US/New Zealand extradition treaty. That required the prosecution arguing that the levels of copyright infringement conducted by MegaUpload and its users were sufficient to amount to fraud.

Earlier today judge Nevin Dawson ruled that a sufficiently solid case had indeed been made, and that Dotcom and his former colleagues could be extradited. If found guilty of the alleged crimes in the US, the four men could face significant jail terms.

Needless to say, Dotcom said he was “disappointed” by the ruling as he left the New Zealand court this morning, though he and the other accused men can appeal and almost certainly will. He tweeted this morning: “My team and I just had a good read of today’s court decision. It’s weak and a Christmas gift in disguise. Woohoo!”

Dotcom’s chief legal counsel Ira Rothken, meanwhile, told Reuters: “We think the judge was wrong on the law; justice wasn’t done today”.

If the case does get to the US, it will likely put the spotlight on the so called safe harbours of US copyright law, which have become increasingly contentious in music circles this year. Dotcom will argue that his company fulfilled its obligations under the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and if MegaUpload was liable for copyright infringement, then so is Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

Prosecutors will likely argue that Dotcom and his colleagues were at best wilfully blind to, and at times actively encouraged, the copyright infringement that occurred on their networks, because they were building a business around the unlicensed content illegally uploaded to the platform.

The safe harbours in US law are somewhat ambiguous, and early cases on their reach didn’t always go in the copyright industry’s favour, though the recent ruling in the BMG v Cox Communications case confirmed that it is possible for the safe harbours to fall if it can be shown a company’s employees are only paying lip service to the anti-piracy measures they instigate to qualify for DMCA protection.