Justice Department releases evidence on Megaupload's copyright violations
Kim Dotcom and executives at Megaupload were fully aware that they were overseeing a business that attracted users because it offered access to illegal copies of Hollywood films and television shows, according to the U.S. Justice Department.
Dotcom is still in New Zealand, as his lawyers fight the U.S. government's attempts to have him extradited, but the Justice Department released a nearly 200 page summary of evidence Friday that it claims proves that Megaupload employees talked openly about copyright infringement and piracy.
For instance, in a 2007 Skype exchange, programmer Bram Van Der Kolk told Chief Technical Officer Mathias Ortmann, “We're modern pirates,” to which Ortmann responded, “we're pretty evil, unfortunately…but Google is also evil, and their claim is ‘don't be evil.'”
At another point in their conversation, Ortmann noted, “we do have legit users,” with Van Der Kolk responding, ”yes, but that's not what we make money with.”
Ira Rothken the U.S. attorney for Dotcom and Megaupload, said that there are no criminal statutes in place to punish secondary copyright infringement, in which video services such as Megaupload host illegal content uploaded by their users. He likened the service to YouTube.
“We believe that the Justice Department case lacks merit,” Rothken said. “They're just using recycled theories of secondary copyright infringement…It's misleading and wrong.”
Employees of Megaupload also failed to punish users who repeatedly uploaded content that violated copyright laws and pretended to remove infringing content after receiving takedown notices from rights holders, the Justice Department claims. The company also allegedly uploaded a copy of “Taken” three months before its U.S. release and hosted a wide range of illegal content such as entire seasons of “Lost” and “Big Love” and films such as “Braveheart,” “Saving Private Ryan” and “Pulp Fiction.”
Also read: Megaupload Founder Kim Dotcom Freed on Bail
Megaupload has been shut down for over a year, after its founder became caught up in one of the largest criminal copyright actions in history. In January 2012, the U.S. Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation filed charges against the video locker service, Dotcom and several of his associates, charging them with racketeering conspiracy, conspiring to commit copyright infringement, conspiring to commit money laundering and criminal copyright infringement.
Rothken said that Dotcom's extradition case has been continued to July, 2014, and said he is optimistic that his client will not be shipped to the U.S.
“Copyright infringement is not an extraditable offense in New Zealand,” Rothken said.
Megaupload and its sister sites generated more than $175 million from advertising. The copyright violations are on the order of $500 million in damages, according to the government's indictment.
A spokesperson for the Justice Department did not respond to a request for comment.