FBI convinced New Zealand’s anti-terrorism squad to arrest 38 year old Kim Dotcom, a German national and the founder of well popular file sharing site Megaupload. He was arrested on January 19. FBI brought copyright infringement and piracy charges against him. Kim Dotcom wanted to see the allegation evidences, but FBI didn’t show him. On last Monday, 13 August Kim Dotcom got his bail and the New Zealand court has ordered FBI to show Kim Dotcom and his lawyers the allegation evidences, otherwise the extradition hearing will not happen. Seems like the case is going towards a new direction.
Kim Dotcom established the file sharing site MegaUpload in 2005. Within a short time, it became popular to people. But, FBI shut down this site in January 2012 alleging copyright infringement and piracy issues. In fact, this was the “largest criminal copyright cases ever brought by the United States.” New Zealand authorities on request of FBI arrested Kim Dotcom on January 19. They also confiscated his computers and hard drives, art work and cars. But Dotcom claimed that he can’t be held responsible for those who chose to make illegal downloads on his site. Since January 19, 2012, he had been fighting government charges of related to copyright infringement charges and had been struggling to get a bail. Finally around 7 months later he got his bail on 13 August with the condition of not to access the Internet.
The alleged persons of Megaupload specially Kim Dotcom said that they have a right to see the specific charges that was brought by FBI against them. But, the United States (prosecution) insisted that they have no right to see the charges. Justice Helen Winkelmann disagreed with the prosecution and ordered that FBI must disclose the evidence in front of Kim Dotcom that they have against him related to Megaupload allegations.
Justice Helen Winkelmann said that the extradition court hearing should be more modest than a formal criminal trial. And so the evidence needed to be tested and the defense should able to present his/her own evidence, test the prosecution’s claims and to examine witnesses. In the 51 page ruling, Justice Helen Winkelmann said that under New Zealand law, Dotcom has legal right to see the evidence against him. Otherwise he and his legal team would be “significantly constrained” in preparing an adequate defense. Justice Helen Winkelmann also added that Dotcom should be allowed to see “only relevant evidence,” but did not explain what exactly that might mean.
The full ruling is quite interesting. If you’ve got time, you must read the full ruling. But, as part of a section marked Criminal Breach of Copyright, the ruling says that US authorities must disclose the followings :
- All records obtained or created in connection with the covert operations undertaken by agents involved in the investigations related to these proceedings in transacting and uploading/downloading data and files on the Megaupload site.
- All records or information and/or material provided to or obtained by the investigation and/or prosecuting agencies by the investigating and/or prosecuting agencies in this case from holders and/or owners of copyright interests evidencing alleged infringement of their copyright and/or complaining of such infringement.
- All records and materials related to communications between relevant copyright holders and Megaupload and/or its employees regarding their copyright interest, the direct delete access provided by Megaupload to any such copyright holders, and any communications between the copyright holders and Megaupload and/or its staff regarding takedown notices.
No doubt, the ruling marks a significant victory for Kim Dotcom, his associates, and their legal team. They had been trying to see the evidence what FBI has got against, but FBI didn’t show them. But now, FBI has nothing to do, but to show the evidence to Kim Dotcom and his lawyers because there is no higher court for FBI to appeal to.
The extradition hearing is supposed to be held in early 2013. If the FBI does not show the evidence to Kim Dotcom and his lawyers, the extradition hearing will not happen.