SYDNEY (AP) — Indicted Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom launched a new file-sharing website on Sunday, promising users amped-up privacy levels in a defiant move against the U.S. prosecutors who accuse him of facilitating massive online piracy.
The colorful entrepreneur unveiled the "Mega" site ahead of a lavish gala and press conference at his New Zealand mansion on Sunday night, the anniversary of his arrest on racketeering charges related to his now-shuttered Megaupload file-sharing site. Megaupload, which Dotcom started in 2005, was one of the most popular sites on the Web until U.S. prosecutors shut it down, accusing Dotcom and several company officials of facilitating millions of illegal downloads.
In Dotcom's typical grandiose style, the launch party featured a tongue-in-cheek re-enactment of the dramatic raid on his home a year earlier, when New Zealand police swooped down in helicopters onto the mansion grounds and nabbed him in a safe room where he was hiding.
"Mega is going to be huge, and nothing will stop Mega — whoo!" a gleeful Dotcom bellowed from a giant stage set up in his yard, seconds before a helicopter roared overhead and faux police agents rappelled down the side of his mansion. Dotcom eventually ordered everyone to "stop this madness!" before breaking out into a dance alongside miniskirt-clad "guards" as music boomed.
Bravado aside, interest in the site was certainly high. Dotcom said half a million users registered for Mega in its first 14 hours.
U.S. authorities are trying to extradite the German-born Internet tycoon from New Zealand, where he is free on bail. Prosecutors say Dotcom made tens of millions of dollars while filmmakers and songwriters lost around $500 million in copyright revenue.
Dotcom argues that he can't be held responsible for copyright infringement committed by others, and insists Megaupload complied with copyrights by removing links to pirated material when asked.
"Our company and assets were taken away from us without a hearing," Dotcom said. "The privacy of our users was intruded on, communications were taken offline and free speech was attacked. Let me be clear to those who use copyright law as a weapon to drown innovation and stifle competition: You will be left on the side of the road of history."
Mega, like Megaupload, allows users to store and share large files. It offers 50 gigabytes of free storage, much more than similar sites such as Dropbox and Google Drive, and features a drag-and-drop upload tool.
The key difference is an encryption and decryption feature for data transfers that Dotcom says will protect him from the legal drama that has entangled Megaupload and threatened to put him behind bars.
The decryption keys for uploaded files are held by the users, not Mega, which means the company can't see what's in the files being shared. Dotcom argues that Mega — which bills itself as "the privacy company" — therefore can't be held liable for content it cannot see.
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