The FBI’s Misadventures in New Zealand

There is growing suspicion in New Zealand that this country, like American Samoa and Puerto Rico, has become an American colony. Sadly, the unfolding Kim Dotcom1 saga seems to confirm this. On January 20th, a New Zealand assault team consisting of helicopters and special defense forces and police armed with automatic weapons invaded the private Auckland home of Mega Upload founder and CEO Kim Dotcom. The reason for Dotcom’s arrest? In New Zealand such treatment is normally reserved for international terrorism suspects and drug dealers. However the purpose of the January 20th assault was an FBI extradition order for Internet piracy.

Dotcom, who is out on bail, gave his first media interview last night on TV 3 Campbell Live. People have to see this. Americans especially need to watch the interview, as this type of hard hitting investigative reporting has become extremely rare in the US. The twenty-three minute segment leaves absolutely no doubt that the FBI Indictment is nothing but lies and fabrication. If, due to massive legal bungling, some New Zealand judge agrees to extradite this guy, he will undoubtedly be found innocent in US federal court.

The FBI Has Knowingly Violated US Law

The FBI has no case. If Dotcom is guilty, so are dozens of other “cloud”2 Internet providers (for example YouTube) that provide bandwidth for uploading and sharing large files. It appears that, once again, the FBI has knowingly violated US law. I suspect they have done this on the assumption that Dotcom is an easy target because either 1) the New Zealand legal and judicial system is (in their view) made up of ignorant hicks or 2) our current (conservative) National government are such obsequious lapdogs that they will introduce some weird retroactive law in Parliament to alter the rules of evidence (this is legal in New Zealand, owing to the absence of a written constitution).

Protected by the Same Laws as YouTube

John Campbell is a very skillful interviewer. The first point he brings out is the elaborate precautions (based on millions of dollars of legal advice) that Dotcom built into Mega Upload to protect the motion picture and music industry against illegal file sharing activities. The first is the Terms of Service Agreement all Mega Upload users were required to tick. In it they agreed not to share copyrighted material, but only files that they themselves had produced. The second was file deletion rights Mega Upload granted their 180 partners, which included every single member of the Motion Picture Association and many music studios. As Dotcom points out, this is not a legal requirement (YouTube doesn’t grant automatic deletion rights) but something he did voluntarily. This is in addition to the 15 million files Mega Upload has deleted at the request of copyright holders.

The Mega Upload founder goes on to outline the US laws that protect “cloud” servers, which legally are categorized as Internet service providers (ISPs). The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is very explicit that ISPs are in no way responsible for copyright violations of third party users, other than to take down illegal files that are reported to them. Because of privacy protections in the Electronic Communication Privacy Act, ISPs are forbidden from examining files posted by their patrons. Thus they have no way of knowing of copyright violations unless content providers notify them.

Why the FBI Doesn’t Go After YouTube

The CEO of Mega Upload acknowledges that Internet piracy is an enormous problem for all cloud/file sharing providers, including YouTube (now owned by Google, Media Fire, Rapid Share and Shy Drive (run by Microsoft). He asks why the FBI doesn’t go after any corporate cloud/file sharing servers and answers his own question: Google has $50 billion to defend themselves.

Dotcom is surprisingly nonchalant that the FBI has destroyed his billion dollar business. I suspect this may have been their intention all along – in order to intimidate other solo entrepreneurs keen on entering the lucrative cloud/file sharing industry. The FBI, Hong Kong and New Zealand have frozen all his financial assets. He indicates his attorneys presently are working without pay, owing to their concern about the blatant miscarriage of justice by both the FBI and the New Zealand government. Dotcom is clearly relieved to be out of jail, as Mrs. Dotcom is expecting twins in April.

Implications for Cloud Users

The case also has ominous implications for cloud users. When the FBI shut down Mega Upload on January 20th, all their patrons (numbering in the hundreds of thousands) lost all their data. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is preparing to file suit if the FBI fails to retain and return these files to their rightful owners.

  1. Kim Dotcom was born (in Germany) Kim Schmitz and changed his surname by deed poll. []
  2. Cloud computing refers broadly to a range of Internet services that allow files to be stored, backed up and/or shared on-line. []

Dr. Bramhall is a retired American psychiatrist and political refugee in New Zealand. She has published a free, downloadable non-fiction ebook 21st Century Revolution. Her first book The Most Revolutionary Act: Memoir of an American Refugee describes the circumstances that led her to leave the US in 2002. Email her at: stuartbramhall@yahoo.co.nz. Read other articles by Stuart Jeanne, or visit Stuart Jeanne's website.