An extradition trial over Kim Dotcom and three colleagues in Auckland, New Zealand began on Monday amid controversy. He even brought his own chair.
Dotcom, along with two executives for file-sharing site Megaupload, were indicted by a grand jury in the Eastern District of Virginia. The indictment, dating back to January 2012, led to a FBI shutdown of Megaupload and then a dramatic raid at the Internet entrepreneur’s home. They then accused Dotcom of copyright infringement, racketeering and money laundering. Now, three years after his home was raided, Dotcom and three associates face an extradition hearing that could send him to US for trial, despite the fact that Dotcom claims never to have lived, visited or incorporated in the US.
That the trial involves a millionaire with some celebrity will invariably change the nature of the case. Dotcom is very popular on social media. He’s also requested his own chair in the courtroom (see above). He tweeted this cartoon:
According to the BBC, Dotcom brought the leather chair for "ergonomic reasons.” U.S. authorities allege Dotcom and the co-accused caused the loss of more than $500 million, while their site generated more than $175 million. Dotcom had assets including computers, art works and cars seized. His bank accounts were frozen.
"The U.S. ... took down the entire Megaupload site, went ahead and froze all their assets and did this with great publicity and public fanfare and did it in coordination with the very powerful force in the United States, from Hollywood," Dotcom lawyer Ira Rothken told Reuters.
We feel as though Kim Dotcom ... will not have a fair procedural playing field because he won't have any assets with which to mount a defence for the largest copyright case in history.
Dotcom has fought the allegations in the court of public opinion. In a white paper he links to on social media, the case is framed as “The US vs You (and Kim Dotcom).” The paper includes an ominous quote by Chris Dodd, Chairman of the Motion Picture Association of America and Former Senator of the United States:
Those who count on quote ‘Hollywood’ for support need to understand that this industry is watching very carefully who’s going to stand up for them when their job is at stake. Don’t ask me to write a check for you when you think your job is at risk and then don’t pay any attention to me when my job is at stake.
The words are ominous considering Hollywood’s history throughout the world, having sent divisive content to the world’s movie markets for one (movies negative of Europe to Latin American and vice versa, for instance). Documented in the book Coca-Colonization and the Cold War: The Cultural Mission of the United States in Austria After the Second World War by Reinhold Wagnleitner, some in Hollywood during World War II considered themselves in a wing of the military. Some actors and producers wore military uniforms even, and many movies received funding the from the government to portray the war effort in a positive light. Alongside massive Marshall Plan funds to Europe, the US government and its partners in media sent a new culture to Europe.
"This case is not just about me. This case is about how much control we allow US corporations and the US government to have over the Internet," he said on Twitter before proceedings began. He has received well-wishes from around the world:
The trial is expected to last weeks, and could hinge largely on New Zealand’s Safe Harbour complaints process. Harvard Professor Lawrence Lessig does not believe there is precedent to extradite Dotcom.