Written by Super User
In his first extensive interview since leaving a New Zealand prison on bail, Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom describes himself as a family man with a "big kid inside me" who is looking for "happiness and nature and peace" for his family. Sure, he used to drive in crazy road races and style himself “Dr. Evil” and hire lavish yachts, but those days are a decade behind him now.
It's a far cry from the way he has been depicted by US law enforcemt.en They charged the “Mega conspiracy” in January with some of the most heinous criminal copyright violations on the planet.
The sit-down interview with New Zealand journalist John Campbell gave Dotcom a chance to dispel this image and make the case his company really is just like YouTube.
It's not a hard-hitting interview—featuring questions like "Are you as bad as possible, Kim? Are you a very naughty man...?"—but hearing directly from Dotcom at last is fascinating.
Just like YouTube
Even though his company was based in Hong Kong, Dotcom insists he went the extra mile to comply with US law.
"We have spent millions of dollars on legal advice over the last few years and our legal advisers have always told us that we are secure and that we are protected by the DMCA which is a law in the US that is protecting online service providers of liability for the actions of their users, so [the arrest and seizure of his assets] came completely unexpected," he said. (The government case says the company did not in fact comply with DMCA requirements such as registering an agent with the US copyright office for the first few years of its existence.)
Dotcom also insisted the site wasn't about piracy; Megaupload was simply too large to track the behavior of its users. In addition, there were all those US laws he chose to comply with. "In the US, it’s the Electronic Communication Privacy Act which prohibits us from looking into the accounts of users proactively and look for things," he said. "It’s like mail, it’s private. We cannot just go in there and police what these users are uploading." (The government indictment points to numerous occasions on which Megaupload employees apparently looked through user accounts before paying out cash bonuses for popular file downloads and commented internally on what they found, including infringing content.)
But his most interesting comments came when comparing his company to other online services that allow user-generated or uploaded content. They echo remarks made to Ars by one of Megaupload's US attorneys, Ira Rothken. But Dotcom goes much further than a comparison with YouTube alone.
I think every online service provider has the same challenges that we have. YouTube, Google, everybody is in the same boat... Rapidshare, Filesurf, Filesonic. Microsoft has their own service called Skydrive. Google is launching a new service called Drive. Everyone is in this cloud arena, in the same business, has the same problems that we had battling piracy. But we are not responsible for the problem, and this is, I think, what everyone needs to understand...
You know that Viacom sued YouTube and YouTube claimed that they were protected by the DMCA and they won. And if you look at the YouTube case files, the emails that were exchanged internally, we are a lamb compared to what was going on at YouTube at the time but these guys got away. They won their lawsuit and I’m sitting in jail, my house is being raided, all my assets are frozen without a trial, without a hearing. This is completely insane, is what it is.
Megaupload did create tools to give rightsholders direct access to the site, and Dotcom says they were used heavily.
Not only did they have an online form where they could take down infringing links, they had direct delete access to our servers so they could access our system and remove any link that they would find anywhere on the Internet without us being involved. They had full access and we’re talking about 180 partners, including every major movie studio, including Microsoft and all big content producers and they have used that system heavily and you need to understand that that system was not even something that was even required by the law. We provided that voluntarily and they have removed over 15 million links.
According to the government, the tool only removed specific links to files, though, often leaving the file in place and accessible via other links. This system appears to have been a function of “de-duplication" under which multiple uploads of the same file would simply be stored on the backend as a single file. Whether it was legal to operate this way will no doubt be tested in court, if the case actually procedes that far.
As for piracy, Dotcom believes it has a simple cause.
Piracy comes from, you know, people, let’s say, in Europe who do not have access to movies at the same time that they are released in the US. This is a problem that has been born within this licensing model and the old business model that Hollywood has where they release something first in one country but they show trailers to everyone around the world pitching that new movie but then the 14-year-old kid in France or Germany can’t watch it for another six months, you know? If the business model would be one where everyone has access to this content at the same time, you know, you wouldn’t have a piracy problem.
Dotcom says he has no interest in trying to flee the country. "The company that was worth probably a billion dollars plus has been given a death sentence without trial, you know, what point is there for me to run away?" he said. "I’m going to win because I’m no criminal and I’ve done nothing illegal."
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