The man behind the controversial Megaupload site has come one step closer to an American courtroom. A judge in New Zealand has ruled that Kim Dotcom (originally known as Kim Schmitz) should be extradited to the US to stand trial on numerous charges relating to copyright infringement.
Dotcom was originally arrested by New Zealand police in 2012, acting in response to a US request. The police famously seized around $17 million in property including cash and cars, which was returned in 2014 when a freezing order on his assets expired.
While in principle Dotcom’s alleged offences make him eligible for extradition under international treaties, the case has been bogged down in legal dispute for years. Issues at stake include whether the 2012 raid was legal, whether evidence has been properly maintained, and whether the seizure of the assets left Dotcom unable to properly defend himself.
Though a judge has now approved the extradition, two steps remain before Dotcom will take an unwanted plane journey. The first is an appeal for reveal to a higher court, something his lawyers have already confirmed they’ll be doing. The second step is political as New Zealand’s justice minister must formally approve the extradition.
If and when Dotcom stands trial, the case could be a landmark in the treatment of file hosting sites. The prosecution’s case is not that Dotcom himself carried out copyright infringement, or even that he allowed site users to do so, but rather that he explicitly encouraged it with a reward program that paid a cash bonus to customers who shared the most popular files. While the prosecution says it was clear that such files would be those which infringed copyright, Dotcom maintains that it was entirely up to users how to respond to the bonuses.