25 January, 2013
In an in-depth interview, Megaupload founder Kim
Dotcom discusses the investigation against his now-defunct file-storage
site, his possible extradition to the US, the future of Internet freedoms
and his latest project Mega with RTís Andrew Blake.
Kim Dotcom (C) launches his new file sharing site "Mega",
surrounded by dancers, in Auckland January 20, 2013. (Reuters/Nigel
The United States government says that Dotcom, a
German millionaire formerly known as Kim Schmitz, masterminded a vast
criminal conspiracy by operating the file-storage site
Dotcom, on the other hand, begs to differ. One
year after the high-profile raid of his home and the
shut-down and seizure of one of the most popular sites on the Web,
Dotcom hosted a
for his latest endeavor, simply called Mega. On the anniversary of the
end of Megaupload, Dotcom discusses the year since his arrest and what the
future holds in regards to both his court case and the Internet alike.
Speaking with RTís Andrew Blake from his
Coatesville, New Zealand mansion, Dotcom weighs in on the US justice system,
the death of
Aaron Swartz, the growing surveillance
state, his own cooperation with the feds and much more.
Megaupload founder Kim
Dotcom (2nd R) poses with actors dressed as police
launch of his new website at a press conference held inside his home
on January 20, 2013.
'Hollywood is a very important
contributor to Obama'
Youíve blamed President Obama and the Obama administration for colluding
with movie companies in order to orchestrate this giant arrest here in
Is this kind of give-and-take relationship between
Washington and Hollywood all that you say it is? Or are you just the
exception? Does this really exist?
You have to look at the players behind this case, okay? The driving
force, of course, is Chris Dodd, the chairman of the MPAA [Motion
Picture Association of America].
And he was senator for a long time and he is
- according to [US Vice President] Joe Biden - Joe Bidenís best friend.
And the state attorney that is in charge of this case has been Joe
Bidenís personal counsel,
MacBride, and [he] also worked as an anti-piracy manager for the BSA,
the Business Software Association, which is basically like the MPAA but
for software companies.
And also, the timing is very interesting,
you know? Election time. The fundraisers in Hollywood set for February,
March [and] April.
There had to have some sort of Plan B, an
alternative for SOPA [the Stop Online Piracy Act], because the president
certainly was aware - and his team at the White House was aware - that
if they donít have anything to give at those fundraisers, to those guys
in Hollywood who are eager to have more control over the Internet, they
wouldnít have probably raised too much.
And Hollywood is a very important
contributor to Obamaís campaign. Not just with money, but also with
media support. They control a lot of media: celebrity endorsements and
So Iím sure the election plays an important
The relationships of the people that are in
charge of this case play an important role and, of course, we have facts
that we want to present at our extradition hearing that will show some
more detail about this and that this is not just some conspiracy theory
but that this actually happened.
Local Maori arrive as Megaupload
founder Kim Dotcom (unseen)
his new file sharing site "Mega" in Auckland January 20, 2013.
The US Justice Department wants to extradite you, a German citizen
living in New Zealand operating a business in Hong Kong. They want to
extradite you to the US. Is that even possible?
That is a very interesting question because the extradition law, the
extradition treaty in New Zealand, doesnít really allow extradition for
So what they did, they threw some extra
charges on top and one of them is racketeering, where they basically say
we are a mafia organization and we set up our Internet business to
basically be an organized crime network that was set up and structured
the way it was just to do criminal copyright infringement.
And anyone who has every used Megaupload and
has any idea about how that website worked knows immediately that it was
But they needed to chop that on in order to
have even a chance for extradition. But in our opinion, you see, all of
that was secondary. The primary goal was to take down Megaupload and
destroy it completely. That was their mission and thatís why the whole
thing in Hong Kong, for example, they called it Operation Takedown.
And I think everything thatís happening now,
they are trying on the fly to doctor it around, and found a way to find
a case. They probably came here and thought, ďWe will find
something; that these guys have done something wrong.Ē
In the indictment, if you actually read
that, itís more like a press release.
Thereís nothing in there that has any
Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom speaks
during the launch
new website at a press conference at his mansion in Auckland on
January 20, 2013.
When the raid happened one
year ago today, it got a lot of people talking both about the Internet
and about this character, Kim Dotcom. But it was a lot of talking and
not so much action, because here it is one year later and this case is
earlier this month, and we saw Aaron Swartz - an online information
activist - pass away, and only in his mid-20s. And it got a lot of
people talking, so much so that members of Congress have actually asked
for changes to federal computer laws so that this doesnít happen again.
it actually going to take to get people to stop just talking and to
actually start acting?
Our case is going to be the one that will have much more attention down
the road because it is a crucial case for Internet freedom.
And I think more and more people realize
that and the government is quite exposed here because they really went
in with completely prosecutorial abuse and overreach and ignoring due
ignoring our rights,
illegal search warrants, illegal restraining orders,
The whole picture, when you look at it,
shows that this was an urgent mission, done on a rush. ďTake them down,
I want them to go.Ē And it was a political decision to do that. And the
execution was extremely poor, and the case is extremely poor, because
that is something they thought that they could worry about later.
It was all about the takedown. ďLetís send a
strong message to Hollywood that we are on their side.Ē
now itís been a year and nothing has progressed. At least for them. It
seems like the case is
falling apart day by day.
Let me give you one example of how crazy this is. We have a judge here
who said, ďPlease show us your evidence about your racketeering
allegations. Show us that these guys were setting up some sort of
organized crime network,Ē because thatís what the extradition will focus
They are using the organized crime treaty to
get us extradited. So the US appealed that and said, ďWe donít want to
show you what we have.Ē
And then they appealed to the high court and
the high court then said, ďWe want to see it.Ē And they just keep
appealing it, all the way to the court of appeals and to the Supreme
Court. And what does that tell you? If you donít even want to show us
your cards - show us what you have!
If you have such a strong case and are
seriously interested about getting someone extradited, why waste all
this time? Just show your hand. And they donít have anything because we
havenít done anything wrong.
We were law abiding. We were a good
corporate citizen. And they knew that the time they came here to do
They just wanted to take us down.
Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom (C)
launches his new file sharing site "Mega",
dancers, in Auckland January 20, 2013.
'I want to reestablish a balance between
a person and the state'
new program, Mega, is fully encrypted, and youíre touting it as an
encrypted program so that people will want to use it. Do you think this
is even necessary, right now, that people need encryption on the
I think itís important for the Internet that there is more encryption.
Because what I have learned since I got dragged into this case is a lot
about privacy abuses, about the government spying on people.
You know, the US government invests a lot of
money in spy clouds: massive data centers with hundreds of thousands of
hard drives storing data. And what they are storing is basically any
communication that traverses through US networks. And what that means
they are not spying on individuals based on a warrant anymore.
They just spy on everybody, permanently, all
And what that means for you and for anybody is that if you are
ever a target of any kind of investigation, or someone has a political
agenda against you, or a prosecutor doesnít like you, or the police
wants to interpret something in a way to get you in trouble - they can
use all that data, go through it with a comb and find things even though
we think we have nothing to hide and have done nothing wrong.
They will find something that they can nail
you with and thatís why itís wrong to have these kinds of privacy
abuses, and I decided to create a solution that overtime will encrypt
more and more of the internet.
So we start with files, we will then move to
emails, and then move to Voice-Over-IP communication. And our API
[Application Programming Interface] is available to any third-party
developer to also create their own tools. And my goal is, within the
next five years, I want to encrypt half of the Internet. Just
reestablish a balance between a person - an individual - and the state.
Because right now, we are living very close
to this vision of George Orwell and I think itís not the right way. Itís
the wrong path that the government is on, thinking that they can spy on
Actors in police costume mock-arrest
Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom (C),
launches his new file sharing site "Mega" in Auckland January 20,
Long before Megaupload was ever taken down, the Justice Department was
looking into Ninja Video and you
actually cooperated with them.
to know: how is Kim Dotcom, this guy who is incredibly against
Washington and hates everything that theyíve done to him, how is this
same guy also helping out the Justice Department?
Let me explain to you how this worked, okay? I was a good corporate
My company was abiding to the laws. If we
get a search warrant or we get a request by the government to assist in
an investigation, we will comply and we have always complied. And that
is the right thing to do, because if someone uploads child pornography
or someone uploads terrorist stuff or anything that is a serious crime,
of course we are there to help. This is our obligation. And I am not for
People need to understand that. Iím against
copyright infringement. But Iím also against copyright extremism. And
Iím against a business model: the one from Hollywood that encourages
Megaupload is not responsible for the piracy
problem, you see? Itís the Hollywood studios that release a movie in the
US, and then six months later in other parts of the world. And everyone
knows that the movie is out there and fans of a particular actress want
to have it right now, but they are not giving them any opportunity to
get access to that content even though they are willing to pay.
And they are looking for alternatives on the
Internet, and then they find them.
They are trying to make me responsible for
their lack of ability to adapt to a new reality, which is the Internet,
where everything happens now. It doesnít happen three months later.
Imagine you go to Wikipedia. You want to find something, research an
article, and they tell you to come back in three months, ĎWeíll give it
to you then.í
If you find another site where you can get
it right now, thatís where you go, right? So itís really their business
model that is responsible for this issue.
And if they donít adopt, they will be left
behind on this side of the road of history like many others who havenít
adopted in the past.
Photo by Andrew Blake
'Iím not Aaron Swartz. Aaron Swartz is my
hero. He was selfless'
What about your skeptics who point out
this big playboy lifestyle and this giant, elaborate house and say ĎHeís
not worried about Internet freedoms, heís just worried about protecting
Let me be clear: I am a businessman, okay? I started Megaupload as a
business to make money. I wanted to list the company. I am an
entrepreneur, alright? Iím not Aaron Swartz.
Aaron Swartz is my hero. He was selfless. He
is completely the opposite of me, but Iím a businessman. Iím driven by
the success of achieving something in the business world. Thatís not a
crime. There is nothing wrong with that. And if you create something
that is popular and that people want to use, you automatically make
And Iíve always been an innovator. Iíve
always created products that people like. And thatís why Iím successful.
Iím not successful because people have used Megaupload for copyright
infringement. And what everyone needs to understand [is] there have been
massive amounts of
legitimate users on Megaupload.
We donít believe that 50 million users a day
are all just transferring piracy. Thatís wrong. A lot of people have
used it to back up their data, to send a file quickly to a friend. Young
artists have used it to get traction, to get downloads, to get known.
There was a lot of legitimate use on Megaupload. Itís a dual-use
technology, just like the Internet.
You can go to any ISP right now, anyone who
connects customers to the Internet. And if they are honest to you and
you ask them the question ĎHow much of your traffic is peer-to-peer
piracy?í anyone who will tell you less than 50 percent is lying to your
This is a problem of the Internet and not
If you werenít doing Mega, or Megaupload, what would you be doing?
Hereís this businessman who strives to accomplish success. What would
you be doing?
I would probably build spaceships and we would probably already be on
Photo by Andrew Blake
What happens next, though? What are the chances of Mega being shut down.
We already saw that
were pulling ads.
The content industry is still very emotional about us.We bought radio
ads with one of the major networks here for eight radio stations.
Very funny, very cool ads, promoting our
service as a privacy service. And the labels called up the radio
station, and one advertiser who is in the movie business called up the
radio station, and demanded those adds to be taken down or else they
will not buy ads from them anymore. And they were forced because they
rely, of course, on that advertisement.
My campaign was comparably small to the
amount that they are sending. So they used their power to interfere in
our right to have a media campaign, an ad campaign. And that just shows
you that attitude. Itís against the law. They canít do that.
Thatís interfering in our business and they
have done that many times in the past.
Calling payment processors, calling
advertisers, telling them, ĎI donít want you to work with these guys.í
Thatís just wrong. If you have an issue with us, go hire a lawyer, sue
us, take us to court and then see if you have anything that will give
you a judgment against us.
But instead, they use that power and their
money to get new laws made for them, to lobby politicians, to get the
White House to come here and destroy our lives. Destroy 220 jobs.
Hardworking innocent people and they donít give a damn about that. They
had an agenda that is about more control over the Internet.
And they made a strategic decision to say
ĎWho are we going to take out to send a strong message?í And I was the
Photo by Andrew Blake
"If they come to attack us, itís just
going to backfire"
happens if Mega is shut down? You are only on day one right now. How
long is it going to take before the government steps up again and what
are you going to do if that happens? Are you prepared to just start all
Itís been one year and here you are, doing this over
again, what happens when Uncle Sam puts his foot down and grinds you
into the dirt again? Do you get back up?
Here is the thing. This startup is probably the most scrutinized when it
comes to legal advice. Every single aspect of it has been under the
looking glass by our legal team.
So we are confident that itís fully
compliant with the law, and if they come to attack us itís just going to
backfire. Exactly like the Megaupload case did. The shutdown of our site
backfired already, massively.
And itís just going to get worse for them.
If they think they can pursue this and get away with this, they are dead
wrong. Because the society is not on their side. Everyone who uses the
Internet knows whatís going on here. They donít like whatís going on
here. They saw it with SOPA and you will see it with our case.
People will come together and fight this
kind of aggression against innovation and Internet freedom.
Photo by Andrew Blake
"We are all the little puppets that they
think they can kick around"
After Megaupload was shut down by the FBI last year, hacktivist with the
retaliated, so to speak.
response, they went and
took down the websites for the FBI, the Motion Picture Association
of America, the Department of Justice, the Recording Industry
Association of America. All of these organizations were shut down by
Anonymous in response to what they did to you.
These were people who you
never met but were so moved by what happened that they had to stand up
and do something. Did you
ever thank them, and how did you take it? How did you respond to their
Itís a kind of virtual protest, you know?
I think itís not a good idea to shut down
websites. Iíve been a hacker myself. I understand why they are doing it
and how they are doing it, but I think there are better ways to protest.
Where you organize yourself in a group and do petitions and actually
email congressmen, email your local politicians, let them know about
what you donít like.
Organize your movement rather than
attacking. I had a sense of understanding for them because everyone had
stored so much data on Megaupload, and then all of a sudden a site like
that disappears and billions of files are taken offline, the majority of
them perfectly legitimate. You need to understand one thing: 50 percent
of all files that were ever uploaded to Megaupload have not even been
That clearly shows the non-infringing use.
People just wanted to store their stuff on
our site. And of course they were outraged when that disappeared and the
government said, ĎWe donít give a care and we donít give a damn about
you people. We donít care that you have your personal documents there
because we have our agenda and we are going to take over the Internet.í
And you know the White House was supporting
SOPA, and only when the masses came together - and Aaron Swartz: he
With his efforts, he stopped SOPA. And he became a target. A
political target, okay?
And thatís why all these things happened to
him. There is no reasonable cause behind going after a young genius like
that in the fashion they did. Itís political. Because the White House
wanted SOPA. They promised it to Hollywood and they failed and they
couldnít go ahead because the White House was afraid if they keep
pushing hard and they keep pushing it forward, that the people who
oppose it are not going to vote for Obama in the reelection campaign.
So itís all a game to them really and we are
all the little puppets that they think they can kick around. So we need
to organize. There needs to be a movement that identifies these things
and fights that. Not with shutting down websites but with real protests.
Going out on the streets, writing to politicians and especially, most
importantly, donít vote for the guys that are against Internet freedom.
Anyone who voted for SOPA, you should have a
close look at that guy.
Do I want to give him my vote next time
around? Because thatís the only language politicians understand is your
vote. And if you can bring all these votes together, somehow pooled for
Internet freedom, you will see all these efforts disappear. Because at
the end of the day, they represent the public. Politicians represent the
And when they have enough pressure they
canít move forward. And SOPA was the best example for that.