Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Treated Like A Terrorist: US Tries To Put Dotcom Back In Jail

TorrentFreak got the exclusive on this: Kim Dotcom, founder of cyberlocker website Megaupload, which was seized by the US authorities earlier this year, is being treated like a terrorist as Crown prosecutor Anne Toohey argues that he needs to be returned to prison.

In a statement to the court at North Shore she said that two more bank accounts have been discovered; one in the Philippines and another in the British Virgin Islands containing $2000, making Dotcom a flight risk despite the imminent birth of twins to his wife Mona, who is also suspected to be involved in Megaupload.

The upshot is that Dotcom is free to continue the fight against the US authorities who want him extradited to face racketeering, copyright infringement and money laundering charges. It also transpired that $2000 — and whatever is in the British Virgin Islands account — is insufficient to meet Dotcom's needs because he asked for $220,000 to be released. Judge Tim Brewer assented. The extradition appeal will begin in August, but the case itself could take years, according to a report in the National Business Review, a New Zealand online paper.

The heavy-handed long arm of justice

One of the more puzzling aspects of the case has been the consistently heavy-handed approach taken by the authorities. There's a colourful report on his life and times in the Brisbane Times, repeated from MNBC, that says he's basically a publicity-hungry fantasist and fraudster guilty of running a pump-and-dump scam on and running off with the cash before the authorities caught up with him, but it's the tech blogs that focus on the heavy-handed display of shock and awe that got a plush mansion trashed in a spat over copyright infringement. They want him extradited to face racketeering, copyright infringement and money laundering charges.

Bogged down in a legal quagmire

“The Americans’ main difficulty lies in the Treaty on Extradition between New Zealand and the United States. That treaty limits the range of extraditable offences between us and America.” - IP lawyer Rick Shera

Copyright infringement isn’t covered by the treaty, and precedent suggested that racketeering was not, either – undermining two key elements of the US government case against Kim Dotcom and the co-accused. - Chapman Tripp partner Matt Sumpter told NBR earlier this week.

There are numerous arguments as to what is and is not covered. For example, the conspiracy, money laundering and racketeering charges, which might more easily fit with the treaty, all seem to rely on the underlying copyright infringement.

As a result the case might collapse, leaving us all wondering if it was all a collossal waste of time and taxpayers' money on a case that really should have been dealt with as a civil case. Criminalizing copyright infringement appears to be causing more problems than it's intended to solve.

Copyright complicated by the internet

The internet has complicated copyright, which was first set up to protect a publishers' trade monopoly, according to Glyn Moody's piece on Stir to Action, The Struggle Between Copyright and the Internet. Mr. Moody contends that the original intent was to facilitate censorship by providing a registry of printed books, and that it was later amended to protect the rights of creators and publishers to encourage learning.

...copyright was no longer a system of censorship, but was seen as encouraging learning through the business of publishing; the right of the author was recognised, as was that of the publishers (the “purchasers” in the quotation above) who acquired those rights; finally, and crucially, copyright’s monopoly was no longer perpetual, as it had been with the Stationers’ Company. The Statute of Anne specified a term of 14 years for new books, renewable to a maximum of 28 years.

The current copyright laws far exceed those terms and copyright maximalists are pushing for further criminalization of infringement even though they themselves are often guilty of infringement themselves when they're not sending bogus DMCA notices. In fact, it's their insistence on retaining their current business model that's causing the piracy problem because it works by creating an artificial scarcity of an available commodity. The government complies with their demands because it makes it easier for them to monitor and control us and because of the campaign donation money politicians receive for selling us out.

However, the UK government appears to be waking up to the reality that the internet empowers individuals; it's created a new website called "Inside Government" to provide a daily news feed so we can see their latest news, policies, publications and consultations. You can also find information about government ministers, departments and organisations and the UK’s interests and policies in the rest of the world. Amusingly, a website search for ACTA brought nothing up.

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