WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak says the U.S. piracy case against Kim Dotcom is "hokey" and a threat to Internet innovation.
Wozniak and Dotcom spoke out against the federal case in separate interviews with The Associated Press Wednesday. Dotcom, the flamboyant founder of file-sharing site Megaupload, is accused by federal authorities of facilitating Internet piracy on a massive scale. Charged with racketeering and money laundering, he's fighting U.S. attempts to extradite him from New Zealand.
Wozniak said he was visiting New Zealand last month to give a speech when he learned Dotcom couldn't come to see him because he was under house arrest. So Wozniak said he visited Dotcom and the two have kept in touch by email since.
"It's just kind of ridiculous what they did to his life," Wozniak said in a telephone interview. "An awful lot of Kiwis support him. The U.S. government is on thin ground."
Wozniak said plenty of people used Megaupload for legitimate purposes before federal authorities shut it down in January and filed criminal charges against seven of its officers, including Dotcom. In a dramatic raid the same month, New Zealand police swooped down in helicopters onto the grounds of Dotcom's mansion and cut their way into a safe room where they found him hiding. He was jailed for a month before a judge decided he could be monitored from his home.
Wozniak likened the Megaupload site to a highway and those who shared pirated movies and songs to speeding motorists.
"You don't just shut down the whole street because somebody is speeding," he said.
U.S. authorities allege in their indictment that Dotcom and Megaupload deliberately thwarted attempts to remove pirated material from the site by removing individual links but not the pirated content. Prosecutors claim the "mega conspiracy" netted Dotcom and others $175 million in illicit advertising revenue and download fees.
In an email interview, Dotcom said the charges are bogus.
"The more people learn about this case the more they realize that this type of copyright disagreement between Hollywood and new cloud storage technology is a political debate, not something that belongs in the criminal court and certainly not something to justify breaking down the door to my house," he said.
Dotcom said Megaupload had been applauded for its content removal policies. But he also acknowledged the site could host pirated files.
"What people uploaded and downloaded in their storage areas was up to them. One person's licensed music MP3 file is potentially another person's infringing file," he wrote.
Wozniak said he believes that people should pay for content. But he also believes in keeping the Internet open to encourage innovation. He said trying to shut down sites like Megaupload is futile.