Kim Dotcom - Megaupload Founder

Image Credit: Wikimedia

The U.S. Justice Department’s extensive campaign to bring Kit Dotcom, the former owner of piracy haven Megaupload, to justice took a new turn late last week.

Federal prosecutors released 191 pages of evidence that begin to show the true nature of the owner and those behind the site, revealing crass profiteers masquerading as champions of a free Internet.

In the past those involved with Megaupload have been able to hide behind the wider debate of an unregulated Internet and individual privacy. As the details of their operation come into the public eye, however, they lift the veil on an organization focused only on its own limited ends.

The Real Kim Dotcom

In an interview with TIME magazine last year, Dotcom stated, “When you create something that is popular, when you create a solution, you’re an innovator.” Far from the forward-thinking driver of Internet change he would prefer to be recognized as, Kim Dotcom has simply built a career and lifestyle on the back of the creativity of others.

Hard-working artists and the in-demand content that they create is what brought users to Megaupload. The site built a significant user base from this traffic, many of whom paid subscription fees amounting to around $150 million, and the rest contributing to an advertising revenue base of a further $25 million.

With these undeserved profits he fled the repercussions of the legal action that took down Megaupload in January of 2012, currying favor with well-placed donations in New Zealand and funding the ongoing publicity war designed to keep some degree of public opinion on his side. But even the initial acceptance in his new home, which overlooked his criminal past to grant exceptional permission to remain, has tested its limits this year.

Police raids have been conducted on his luxury  home near Auckland and Dotcom continues to fight extradition that would bring him to the U.S. to face the justice that he has long evaded.

These are not the actions of an innocent man. These are the actions of a man who knows he has so far been able to escape the consequences of his illegal actions and seeking to maintain the opulent lifestyle they now afford him.

Driver of Profit, Not Change

Among the many disclosures from the Justice Department of communications between Megaupload’s leadership team, one Skype exchange summarizes the gap between the reality of the site and the facade its owner successfully perpetuated for many years.It reads:

“If copyright holders would really know how big our business is they would surely try to do something against it. They have no idea that we’re making millions in profit every month.”

Megaupload was a site focused purely on driving its own profit at the expense of those whose work it provided illegal access to. File-sharing sites are widespread and there are now enough operating within the law to leave no excuse for those who do little or nothing to curb piracy. Kim Dotcom’s site was driving only exploitation, not innovation.

The piracy debate has now moved far enough along the line that web users are able to distinguish between genuine advocates of digital civil liberties and those who would simply hide behind the debate to profit. Kim Dotcom and Megaupload clearly fall into the latter category, and will continue to be exposed as such until they can no longer escape the legal implications of cynically profiting from the creativity of others.