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Schmitz says he’s the Saddam Hussein of the internet (sort of)

By | Published on Friday 2 March 2012

Kim Schmitz

Also hitting out at the American copyright owners this week was MegaUpload founder Kim ‘Dotcom’ Schmitz, though not through a legal filing but via a TV interview.

As previously reported, Schmitz was arrested in New Zealand in January along with three of his colleagues at the request of the US authorities. Seven Mega execs in total are accused of copyright infringement, money laundering and racketeering in relation to their former online operations, which were taken offline by officials in America. The US is now trying to extradite Schmitz and his former colleagues to face the charges against them.

There are parallels between the Grooveshark and MegaUpload cases, even if the former is a civil action and the latter a much more dramatic criminal case. MegaUpload also claims that it was its users that uploaded infringing content to its file-transfer and video-sharing sites, and that it operated a takedown system for rights owners to employ if they so wished, meaning the Mega company is protected for infringement claims under the DMCA. But, also like Grooveshark, rights owners – and in this case the US authorities too – say the Mega set up operated a deliberately shoddy takedown process, and that employees or affiliates of the company actually uploaded most of the infringing content, not users.

But, as with Grooveshark, Mega disputes those allegations, and accuses its opponents of having little evidence to back up their claims. Though Schmitz chose not to compare his plight with that of the Groovesharkers, but rather to that of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, which possibly isn’t something you want to be comparing your business to really, however dodgy the US and UK’s accusations against Hussein about weapons of mass destruction may have been.

But, Schmitz told New Zealand TV, in the same way America’s case against Iraq in 2003 was full of politically-motivated bold but unsubstantiated statements, so is its case against him and the Mega empire. Rejecting the idea he is some kind of “piracy king”, Schmitz told TV3: “It’s kind of like weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, you know? If you want to go after someone and you have a political goal you will say whatever it takes”.

Schmitz insisted that the content on his websites was uploaded by genuine users, and that his company operated the obligatory takedown system, giving 180 partners “including every major movie studio, and Microsoft” access to the MegaUpload platform to assist in the removal of unlicensed material. He then accused the US government of pandering to Hollywood, and to big content companies operating outdated business models.

The real problem, Schmitz argued, was content companies – and especially movie studios – staggering the release of movies across the planet, forcing those outside the US eager to see brand new releases onto the internet. According to The Guardian, he mused: “Piracy comes from, you know, people in Europe who do not have access to movies at the same time that they are released in the US. If the business model would be one where everyone has access to this content at the same time, you know, you wouldn’t have a piracy problem”.

He concluded: “So it’s really, in my opinion, the government of the United States protecting an outdated monopolistic business model that doesn’t work in the age of the internet and that’s what it all boils down to. I’m no piracy king, I offered online storage and bandwidth to users and that’s it”.

Of course the US authorities – assuming they can extradite Schmitz et al and get their day in court – will bring up correspondence between various Mega execs where they referred to themselves as modern day pirates, as well as evidence they hope proves that the majority of the content on the Mega platform was put their by Mega affiliates, many of whom initially downloaded it from YouTube. And then there’s the money laundering and racketeering allegations, which, in terms of jail terms, are more serious than any of the copyright charges.

But quite how good the evidence American prosecutors have amassed really is remains to be seen. Certainly Schmitz is in a fighting mood on this one, while accusing the American’s of instigating a “death sentence without trial” by cutting off all of his assets and bank accounts overnight. The Mega team still hope to avoid even being extraditing to the US, but if this does all end up in an American courtroom, we should be in for an exciting trial.