March 05, 2012 4:58pm PT by Eriq Gardner
Megaupload Founder Kim Dotcom Defends Himself as He Fights Extradition (Video)
The U.S. government has formally filed papers to extradite Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom from New Zealand to face trial for breaking copyright laws. The move has been expected for some time. Federal prosecutors filed the case against Megaupload executives in January, which gave them 45 days to file an extradition application.
According to New Zealand reports, an extradition hearing has been tentatively scheduled for Aug. 20.
Dotcom and some of his colleagues are being pursued over what the U.S. government calls the "Mega Conspiracy," a case involving racketeering, copyright infringement and money laundering that is claimed to have caused more than $500 million in damages.
The case is expected to be the biggest piracy criminal action in U.S. history, but for extradition purposes, it's the alleged racketeering that is most key.
At a hearing last month, a judge analyzing whether to free Dotcom on bail asked the lawyers whether the offenses qualified under New Zealand's extradition treaty with the U.S.
Dotcom's lawyer noted that the treaty didn't cover a criminal breach of copyright but did cover an offense that was similar to racketeering. He said that it was the U.S. government's position that "everything is derivative" from the copyright infringement charge and promised to mount a "substantial challenge" to this position soon.
Fergus Sinclair, a lawyer at the Crown Law Office, representing the U.S., told the judge that certain activities classified as transnational organized crime made him eligible for extradition, basing the interpretation on the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, passed in 2000.
Meanwhile, Dotcom is free on bail, awaiting the extradition hearing. During the past week, he has gone on a PR counterattack against the U.S. government's charges, saying in one interview that the Megaupload takedown was a "death sentence without a trial."
Dotcom has also appeared on TV in New Zealand, saying that he never received any cease-and-desist letters from Hollywood studios asking him to disengage in piracy-enabling activities. (He did admit to getting takedown notices; the distinction between the two isn't exactly clear.) At another point in the interview, the Megaupload leader also says Hollywood studios had direct access to delete files if they so chose.
He says he believed that the law protected him and that his lawyers advised him that his online service provider wouldn't be liable for the actions of third-party users. He also cites his "flamboyance, history as a hacker, not an American" past as reasons he became an "easy" legal target.
Here's the long, 23-minute interview that goes into some detail about his response to copyright allegations: