From illegal surveillance to military-style raids, the prosecution of Kim Dotcom, the flamboyant founder of the file-sharing site Megaupload, has been filled with high drama. And now the case has taken a yet another twist.
The FBI alleges that Megaupload was a haven for pirated content and that Dotcom and his colleagues raked in huge profits as part of the biggest copyright conspiracy in history. But in a 39-page white paper published today, Dotcom’s legal team launched an aggressive attack against the U.S. government’s attempt to prosecute the 39-year-old German-born, New Zealand-residing Internet entrepreneur. The lawyers accuse U.S. prosecutors of corruption, misrepresenting facts, and “dirty tactics.”
The white paper claims that powerful Hollywood lobbyists influenced the U.S. government to go after Megaupload, amounting to what the lawyers term a “contract prosecution.” The intense effort to go after the website, which included illegal wiretapping of Dotcom’s communications by New Zealand’s top spy agency, is attributed to “some motivating factor outside the U.S. Department of Justice’s mandate”—with the finger pointed squarely at the Motion Picture Association of America.
The lawyers have cooked up a conspiracy theory, alleging that the MPAA “conceived and executed the attack on Megaupload” with possible assistance and support from former Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., and Vice President Joe Biden. (Dodd was appointed CEO of the MPAA in 2011, and he is considered a close ally of Biden’s.) The paper alleges that the MPAA’s lobbyists met with Biden—the insinuation being, though the evidence is thin at best, that this later had a strong bearing on the Justice Department’s militant pursuit of Dotcom. It adds:
The U.S. government’s attack against Megaupload bears all the hallmarks of a contract prosecution: a case resting on erroneous theories of criminal law, littered with due process violations and prosecutorial abuses, carried out for the benefit of a select few in exchange for their political and financial support. In the name of eliminating copyright infringement, Hollywood has exerted a corrupting influence in Washington, leading us all down a slippery slope that not only threatens innovation and Internet freedom, but also has profound implications for constitutional principles of free speech, privacy and due process.
The MPAA had not responded to a request for comment at the time of publication. Last year, the MPAA told the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative that the Justice Department’s seizure of Megaupload.com and Megavideo.com had a “massive” impact, resulting in copyright-infringing content being “purged by operators [of other filesharing websites] in bulk.”
Other extraordinary statements made in the white paper include accusations that U.S. prosecutors used a “a black media campaign” as part of a propaganda effort against Dotcom, tipping off journalists about the raid on his property last year while putting “an inordinate focus on the principal founder’s financial success and flamboyant lifestyle.” The paper attempts to paint Megaupload as an upstanding law-abiding company, claiming that at one time it “voluntarily gave major copyright holders direct access to its servers to remove links they considered to be infringing—without any oversight by Megaupload—and without requiring them to follow statutory take-down notice procedures.”
Dotcom’s lawyers are calling for U.S. lawmakers conduct an investigation and hearings into the conduct of the Justice Department’s Megaupload prosecution, saying that the case “sets an alarming precedent for regulation of the Internet, freedom of expression, privacy rights, and the very rule of law.” Dotcom is currently fighting extradition to the United States in an ongoing New Zealand court case, and recently launched a new file-sharing service, Mega.co.nz.