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New Zealand police investigating Security Bureau over MegaUpload snooping

By | Published on Wednesday 31 October 2012


Police in New Zealand are now investigating the country’s Government Communications Security Bureau regarding its conduct in monitoring executives at MegaUpload before the controversial file-transfer site was shut-down back in January.

As the US authorities swooped on the Mega enterprise to take it offline, New Zealand police arrested four of the firm’s execs, including founder Kim ‘Dotcom’ Schmitz. But last month New Zealand Prime Minister John Key admitted that the country’s GCSB “acted unlawfully” in the way it gathered communications between former MegaUpload execs ahead of the arrest and raid.

While Key ordered an inquiry into the GCSB’s actions, the country’s Green Party made a complaint to the police under the New Zealand Crimes Act, and the party’s co-leader Russel Norman has now told reporters that a police investigation is under way.

Norman said: “I am very pleased that senior police investigators have started inquiries and expect to make an initial report by 15 Nov. It is reassuring to know that police intend to interview key witnesses to get to the bottom of how a New Zealand resident was illegally spied upon”.

He added: “I hope they will interview senior police and government ministers, including Prime Minister John Key and his deputy Bill English, about their involvement. Spies must be held to the same standards as other New Zealanders. They are subject to the laws of this land and must be held accountable by the police and the courts when they violate those laws”.

The news will be welcomed by Dotcom and his Mega team, who have been critical of the authorities in both the US and New Zealand ever since the criminal case against them was launched. The New Zealand police have also been criticised themselves after it was revealed that they had the wrong warrant when raiding Dotcom’s mansion, and that they broke rules by allowing US investigators to take items seized during that raid back to America.

Elsewhere in Mega news, the Motion Picture Association Of America has again expressed concern about former users of the now defunct file-transfer platform being given temporary access to the old MegaUpload servers to regain files that they were cut off from back in January. As much previously reported, while a lot of people used MegaUpload to share and access unlicensed music and movie content, some customers used it to store their own files, and they lost access to that data when Mega was shut down. One former customer, Kyle Goodwin, has been fighting through the courts to regain access to his lost files.

The MPAA has no problems with Goodwin et al being reconnected with their own data, but the Hollywood trade body says that any reopening of the MegaUpload servers must be managed so that unlicensed material is first removed. The problem is that that makes what could be a relatively simple process much more complicated. Team Mega say they would gladly manage that process if they are given access to some of their frozen funds to pay for it, but both the MPAA and US prosecutors are nervous about that solution.

With Goodwin’s legal bid to reclaim his lost files still rumbling through the courts, the MPAA this week requested to be part of any future hearings on the issue because of “the overwhelming amount of infringement of the MPAA members’ copyrighted work on MegaUpload”, adding that if users are reconnected to that content, even for a short time, it would “compound the massive infringing conduct already at issue in this criminal litigation”.

As previously noted, whatever their concerns, the problem for the MPAA is that, by throwing a spanner into the works with regards to reconnecting Goodwin with his files, the movie studios are basically saying that their copyrights must be protected at all costs, while the average man’s copyrights just don’t matter, and that’s not a good message to be sending out as an industry that desperately needs to convince the world at large (rather than just friendly politicians and judges) that copyright is something that should be respected by all.