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.
States government says that Dotcom, a German millionaire formerly
known as Kim Schmitz, masterminded a vast criminal conspiracy by
operating the file-storage site Megaupload. 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 launch
party 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.
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 New Zealand. 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?
Dotcom: 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 all that.
So Iím sure
the election plays an important role. 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.
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 copyright. 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 total nonsense. 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 merits.
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 still happening.
Back up 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. What is 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 process, ignoring
our rights, spying
on us, illegal
search warrants, illegal restraining orders, illegal
spying. 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 on primarily. 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 this. They just wanted to take us
'I want to
reestablish a balance between a person and the state'
:The 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 Internet?
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 the time. 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 everybody.
Long before Megaupload was ever taken down, the Justice Department
was looking into Ninja Video and you actually
cooperated with them. People want 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
citizen. 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 copyright infringement. 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
piracy. 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.
'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 his profitsí?
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 money. 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 face. This is a problem of
the Internet and not Megaupload.
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 Mars.
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 one.
"If they come
to attack us, itís just going to backfire"
But what 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 over again? 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
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
"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 movement Anonymous retaliated,
so to speak. In 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 reaction?
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 downloaded once.
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 stopped SOPA. 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 public.
And when they have enough pressure they canít move forward. And
SOPA was the best example for that.