Explaining the Kim Dotcom/Megaupload case
Confused about all the fuss around Kim Dotcom and Megaupload? Wondering what it’s all about? Let us explain it so even mom will understand
2012 was a big year (pardon the pun) for Kim Dotcom - and not in a good way. Starting with his arrest in January and the shutdown of his file sharing company, Megaupload, through the year-long (still continuing) battle to get him extradited to the United States to face trial for copyright infringement, it seems he was constantly in the news. Now 2013 is looking to be another year full of Kim Dotcom news, starting with the launch this week of his new file sharing site, Mega.
Have you found yourself asking what all the hubbub is about? Have you been too busy watching Downton Abbey to follow all of the legal shenanigans? Well, let us try and summarize the whole shebang with a little (hypothetical) Q&A session about it between me and my mother. If I can explain it so it makes sense to her, maybe you’ll find it useful too.
Or maybe not. But let’s give it a try anyways.
Who is Kim Dotcom and why is she in trouble?
Well, first of all, she’s a he - a 6’ 7”, 300 poundish German man.
Oh. Well, schnitzel can be very filling. So, Mr. Dotwhatever - wait, is that his real name?
Dotcom, mom. It’s his legal name now, but he was originally born Kim Schmitz. He changed it a few years ago in honor of all the money he made on the Internet.
Good thing he didn’t make a lot of money as a gynecologist.
Maybe. So, he’s the founder of Megaupload, a cloud-based file-sharing website, and he’s been charged by the U.S. government with racketeering, money laundering and copyright infringement, all based on illegal file sharing.
Arrested for sharing? I used to spank you for not sharing. Remember?
Yes, unfortunately, but Megaupload was shut down in January of 2012 by the FBI because it was allegedly enabling, encouraging and profiting from people using it to illegally share copyrighted material, like digital copies of movies, books and songs.
Oh yes. I think I saw a case like this on CSI. Or was it NCIS? Whichever one has LL Cool J. He’s hunky.
He is entertaining.
Were lots of people using Megaupstairs to illegally share files?
It’s Megaupload, mom. Anyway, it’s hard to know how much copyrighted material was being shared, but Megaupload had 150 million registered users, 50 million daily visitors and it accounted for four percent of total Internet traffic. The FBI estimates that the illegal sharing cost the copyright holders more than $500 million.
Wow! His mother must be very disappointed in him. If you did that you would be seriously grounded.
So Mr. Dotcon is in big trouble?
Dotcom, mom. Well, if he ever gets sent to the U.S. for trial and is convicted he (and his co-defendants) could be sentenced to up to 55 years in prison.
He’s not in the U.S. right now? Should I call Dog the Bounty Hunter?
No, he’s in New Zealand fighting extradition.
I thought you said he was German. Why is he in New Zealand? He must really like shrimp on the barbie.
That would be Australia, mom. He became a permanent resident of New Zealand in 2010 and that’s where they arrested him last January.
I assume he claims he’s done nothing wrong - like most men?
Yes. He feels he’s being unfairly targeted by, among others, the Recording Industry Association of America, the Motion Picture Association of America and Vice President Joe Biden.
Joe Biden? He’s the vice president! Vice presidents have many more important things to do than that, like, for instance... uh, actually, he may be onto something there.
Why hasn’t been sent back to the U.S. for trial yet?
He’s been fighting extradition and the New Zealand authorities have bungled much of this process, which has helped his case. First off, they were spying on him before he was arrested, which apparently is illegal since he’s a permanent resident. Then, when they searched his house, they used improper search warrants.
Wait - did you say this was in New Zealand or California?
Good one, mom. Anyway, as a result, the New Zealand Prime Minister has had to apologize to him and he’s been allowed to be free on bail and to sell some of his assets to pay his legal and living expenses.
What kind of assets did he sell?
Five of his Mercedes and a Rolls Royce, among other things.
Five mercedes?! Did you say he was married? Is he available and does he like older women?
Sorry, mom. He’s married.
Dang. When do you think he’ll be sent to the U.S. for trial?
Who knows. The way the case is going, he may never be sent here.
What about Megauptake and all of the files they were hosting?
Mom, please, it’s Megaupload. Since it’s been shut down all of its data, all 1,103 servers and 28 petabytes worth, are being held by while all of the legal stuff gets worked out.
What about people who used the service to share files legally?
For now, they’re out of luck. They can’t access whatever data they had on the site. However, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has gone to court to try and force the government to let users not violating copyright laws retrieve their data.
Is the Electronic Frontier Foundation related to Star Trek?
Have they had any luck?
Assuming he doesn’t go to prison, what’s next for Mr. Dotbomb?
Dotcom, mom. I’m not sure, although, this week, on the one year anniversary of his arrest, he launched a new file-sharing site, named Mega.
Is he allowed to do that and couldn’t he come up with a more original name?
Probably not, since he promised to not take part in a file sharing business as part of his bail agreement. However, he claims he can since it’s a new business which now encrypts the data before it’s stored on Mega’s servers so they have no way knowing if copyrighted material is being shared.
Are people using it?
So far, yes, at least 500,000 users have registered with the site, although their servers are having trouble keeping up with the load. Also, Gabon won’t let them use the me.ga domain.
Good for the Gabonese, er Gabonites! I think I saw that place on House Hunters International once. Well, this new services sounds awfully similar to the business that got Mr Dotcloud in trouble in the first place, Megauptown.
Mom, for the last time, his name is Dotcom and the business was Megaupload. Why don’t we just leave it at that for now? I’ll let you know when there’s more news on this.
Please do - and do you think I could download a copy of The Graduate from this new Mega site? That young Dustin Hoffman was the bombdiggity.
Maybe, mom. I gotta go.