Aardvark DailyNew Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 25th year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.
Content copyright © 1995 - 2019 to Bruce Simpson (aka Aardvark), the logo was kindly created for Aardvark Daily by the folks at aardvark.co.uk
Please visit the sponsor!
Likable rogue... or villainous pirate?
I guess people's opinions of Kim Dotcom depend on who you are and what you have to gain.
If you were a politician a few years ago when Kim was throwing money and helicopter rides around like confetti then you would have thought he was a great guy. You'd probably even have overlooked his somewhat chequered past and offenses in a way that you wouldn't have done for poorer, less generous petitioners.
Of course once Mr Dotcom became an embarrassment to you and a political liability, you'd have quickly jumped to the other side of the fence and sided with the corporations and US government, accusing him of all sorts of evil deeds in the online world.
Yet this week, Kim tweeted that all he'd done is create a cloud-based file sharing service, "that's it".
Really, is that all MegaUpload was? Does Dotcom deserve to be extradited to the USA?
Well as in most things, I think the truth lies somewhere between the extreme positions being taken by those involved and those affected.
Sure, Dotcom did create one of the very first cloud-based drop-box services and these are now both prolific and extremely popular.
So why is it that Kim is being painted as a villain for creating MegaUpload -- but Google is praised for its Google-Drive, which is simply seen as a valuable tool for Net users?
Why is the big man with the foreign accent subject to an extradition claim for copyright crimes, whilst Google continues to host vast troves of pirated content on its YouTube site, seemingly with impunity?
Well let's be fair, it certainly appeared as if MegaUpload was incentivising people to upload "popular" files that would then be eagerly downloaded by many others. Although I never used the service myself, I believe that there were pro-rata payments made to those who uploaded such "popular" files as a reward for the traffic that these uploads subsequently produced.
Did Kim know that the most "popular" uploads were pirated material subject to the protections of copyright laws?
Of course he did. Apparently the guy is quite bright (albeit not quite bright enough) so this can not have escaped his attention. Plausible deniability is not even on the table over this issue.
Having said that, I'm pretty sure that Susan Wojcicki is aware that YouTube hosts a massive amount of "popular" uploads that are also there, in breach of copyright laws.
YouTube says that it works hard to honour take-down requests and has software designed to minimise the amount of copyright infringement that takes place on the site. Kim Dotcom says he did the same at MegaUpload.
It is my own personal opinion that Kim Dotcom was knowingly facilitating copyright infringement, I have no doubt of that. I suspect that although MegaUpload did honour take-down requests, it did so in a manner that was far from vigorous or enthusiastic.
However, given that breaching copyright laws is not grounds for extradition from New Zealand, I see no merit in the US claims that extradition should take place.
The USA has very cynically and cunningly added a number of ludicrous extra *criminal* charges to the extradition request. They allege racketeering and money laundering - which are extraditable offences under NZ law.
However, I have yet to see any believable evidence to support these extra charges and I think that only a fool would believe that they weren't simply added to provide the legal grounds necessary for such a request to succeed within the NZ court system.
Then there is the unbelievable magnitude of losses being claimed by US corporations as a result of MegaUpload's contribution to copyright infringement. As has always been the case, these corporations assume that *every* illegal download represents a lost sale, something which has been proven wrong on many, many occasions.
For example, I am not afraid to admit that I have, on occasion, downloaded copyrighted movies but these generally fall into two categories. They are either movies that I would *never* have bought or paid to see in a theatre -- or movies that I already had on disk or subsequently went out and purchased on disk.
For example, and following on from yesterday's column, I have a huge movie library, mainly on DVD. From time to time I download a "ripped" and "illegal" copy of a movie that I already have on disk. Why do I do this? Simple... it saves me the time/effort of ripping the disk myself.
For example... we have Independence Day on DVD and on BluRay disks -- but I also downloaded a copy via a Kodi plug-in so that I can now watch it without having to find the disk(s) and fire up the Blu-Ray player in the living room. Was that download a "lost sale" for the studio that made the movie? Of course not -- hell, I've already paid for that movie TWICE!
I also downloaded "Iron Sky", the brilliant scifi crowd-funded movie involving Nazis on the dark side of the moon. I decided that I liked the movie and so went out and bought the BluRay disk to show my support. Would I have bought the disk if I hadn't downloaded the movie first and enjoyed the contents? Probably not. In this case, an "illegal" download earned them a sale so they actually *gained* money, not lost it.
So, should Mr Dotcom be extradited from NZ to face what must surely be a vendetta by the US government and the corporations that effectively control it?
In my opinion -- no.
Hit him with fines if you want (if you can) for his complicity in copyright infringement, but I see no good reason to force him to the USA where I'm sure he will be most unjustly penalised for the things that Google still does every day with full governmental and corporate support.
The USA and its corporations have become untouchable bully-boys on the world stage and at least one country, perhaps the country which was first to give women the vote, should stand up and say "piss off Uncle Sam".
But what do readers think?
Please visit the sponsor!
Have your say in the Aardvark Forums.