July 10, 2012

Megaupload Founder’s Extradition Case Delayed Until Next Year

Peter Suciu for - Your Universe Online

The founder of Megaupload continues to face maga-woes, but extradition isn´t going to be one of them — at least until next year. On Tuesday a New Zealand judge postponed next month´s hearing to allow more time to resolve legal arguments.

This follows an earlier ruling on the rights of the accused and even the legality of the raid on the home of file-sharing site creator Kim Dotcom.

The United States will likely appeal both decisions.

For now the case against the high-tech cult figure, who is legally a citizen of both Germany and Finland and was granted New Zealand residency in 2010, has been provisionally rescheduled for March 25.

Born Kim Schmitz, he legally changed his name to Kim Dotcom, while his company Megaupload is registered in Hong Kong, where he formally resided. The site reportedly boasted of having more than 150 million registered users and 50 million daily visitors, according to the indictment. And at one point was estimated to be the 13th most frequently visited website online.

Dotcom has been accused of copyright theft, money laundering and racketeering fraud. Prosecutors allege that pirated movies and other content were shared through the Megaupload site and that it cost the copyright holders more than $500 million lost earnings, making this one of the biggest cases of its kind to date.

The suit claims that Megaupload´s staff even paid users who in turn knew that uploads were infringing on copyright, and thus encouraged the practice. The U.S. Department of Justice further alleges that the company made about $175 million from advertising and membership fees.

He faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted in the United States. This is quite a fall for a cult like hero who was known to hobnob with other high-tech megastars.

In fact, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak came to the defense of Kim Dotcom, reported In an email interview with the news site, Woznaik offered his support of Dotcom.

“When crimes occur through the mail, you don't shut the post office down,” Wozniak was quoted as saying. “When governments dream up charges of 'racketeering' for a typical IT guy who is just operating a file-sharing service, or accuse him of mail fraud because he said he had removed files [to alleged infringing content] when he'd just removed the links to them, this is evidence of how poorly thought out the attempt to extradite him is. Prosecutors are attempting to take advantage of loopholes. Too bad for the U.S. government that DotCom lives in New Zealand, which is better on human rights.”

Wozniak added that Dotcom was  doing his best to prevent piracy on Megaupload and that the efforts by the governments of New Zealand and the United States have made it impossible for him to fund his defense.

“How unfair that the United States will allow him living expenses out of his frozen assets but not give him any legal fees,” Wozniak added in his interview with Cnet. “The side with access to the funds spends millions on lawyers hoping the other side goes bankrupt and gives in. Shame on the system that permits this one-sided advantage. Kim is well enough liked and respected that his legal team is working without up-front payment.”

It has also been noted that the January 2012 raid against Dotcom could be seen as somewhat excessive. Dotcom alleges that it included two helicopters and 75 “heavily armed officers” reported the New York Times. The New Zealand police countered by saying that just 20 or 30 officers were involved in the raid on his mansion.

Dotcom spent a month in prison before being granted bail, despite prosecutors´ arguments that he could be a serious flight risk.

Dotcom is now currently under house arrest at his Auckland home and has been tweeting his thoughts since a ban that prevented him from using the Internet was first lifted in April.

That hasn´t been the only positive twist in the case for the Megaupload founder.

In June another judge ruled that the search warrants used to raid Dotcom´s home invalid because it failed to describe the offenses being investigated. Additionally, in May a judge ruled that the U.S. should share the evidence it gathered during the seizure of the computer equipment to prevent it from becoming a “one-sided” affair.