Indicted Megaupload founder plans site reboot

Associated Press Modified: October 11, 2012 at 1:15 am •  Published: October 11, 2012
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Asked on the phone if U.S. prosecutors might see his plans as a poke in the eye, Dotcom said "probably."

Dotcom's case has fascinated people in New Zealand at the same time as it has moved like a wrecking ball through the judicial system here, exposing embarrassing mistakes made by police, politicians, judges and spies. Prime Minister John Key even publicly apologized to "Mr. Dotcom" last month after acknowledging spies had carried out unlawful surveillance on him before his January arrest.

A judge here also found that police executed an unlawful search warrant when they seized digital material from Dotcom, evidence which was later passed on to the F.B.I. A lawmaker was forced to explain why he listed a campaign donation from Dotcom as "anonymous" (he maintains he didn't know who the donor was) while another judge was forced to step down from the case after making an anti-U.S. remark.

The missteps likely won't have much impact on the criminal case unless Dotcom's defense lawyers can prove that U.S. authorities were complicit in gaining evidence by unlawful means. But Dotcom's latest plans could raise further questions of New Zealand's judiciary, which decided to allow Dotcom access to the Internet and millions of dollars of his frozen funds while on bail.

Jennifer Granick, the director of civil liberties at the Stanford University law school's Center for Internet and Society, said Dotcom's case marks the first time the U.S. has attempted to hold somebody criminally liable for copyright infringement committed by others. She said prosecutors are pushing at the boundaries of the law.

"It makes the substantive underpinnings of the case highly questionable, legally," Granick said. "It's a novel case."

Dotcom, 38, who changed his name from Kim Schmitz, has enjoyed a rollercoaster ride as a hacker turned playboy turned family man. He has faced legal trouble before, picking up convictions in Germany in 1998 for computer fraud and in 2002 for insider trading. In his latest legal battle, he has presented himself as an Internet freedom fighter and has gained many devoted fans on Twitter with whom he interacts regularly.

His extradition hearing is scheduled for March.

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Follow Nick Perry on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nickgbperry