Wellington - Lawyers for Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom accused the US
government on Wednesday of launching a flawed prosecution against their
client with "frightening" implications for all internet users.
New Zealand-based internet tycoon's legal team released a "white paper"
to coincide with a visit to Auckland by US Attorney General Eric
Holder, which argues that online piracy allegations against Dotcom are
The 38-page document says that while copyright issues
were normally treated as a civil matter, US prosecutors were trying to
use anti-racketeering criminal statutes normally used against gangsters
to press their case.
"The US actions against Kim Dotcom set a
frightening precedent for the basic rights of internet users and
innovators of new technologies," it said.
"Frankly, the lies that
were told to friendly governments and the illegal spying on Kim Dotcom
demonstrate a gunslinger attitude to rule of law."
a German national with New Zealand residency, was arrested in an armed
raid on his Auckland mansion in January last year and his Megaupload
empire was shut down.
US authorities allege Megaupload and
related file-sharing sites netted more than $175m and cost copyright
owners more than $500m by offering pirated copies of movies, TV shows
and other content.
The US Justice Department and FBI hope to
extradite him to face charges of racketeering fraud, money laundering
and copyright theft in a US court, which could see him jailed for up to
20 years if convicted.
One of the white paper's co-authors,
London-based human rights lawyer Robert Amsterdam, said Washington had
bowed to pressure from the film industry to pursue Dotcom because it was
a major contributor to Democratic Party coffers.
copyright holders had failed to adapt to new technology and wanted to
make an example of innovators such as Dotcom, a pioneer in "cloud"
computing, to protect their interests.
"These are the guys who opposed the record player, the photocopier, the Sony Betamax," he said.
"The copyright lobby has to be controlled."
said that even though Dotcom was living in New Zealand and the majority
of his business was outside America, US prosecutors seized his
multi-million dollar business without giving him a hearing.
a larger-than-life character known for his luxurious lifestyle, said he
was singled out as prosecutors believed he was unlikely to garner
public sympathy when he was arrested.
"I am an easy target. They
needed a villain who's rich, flamboyant and over the top like me," he
said in a live chat on Wednesday on the New Zealand Herald website.
said there was nothing to stop the US taking similar criminal action
against ordinary internet users if it continued to act as "the
international bully" on copyright control.
"It's that important for freedom of expression," he said. "There are no guarantees if they get away with this."
his trip, Holder is expected to hold discussions with New Zealand
authorities on the Dotcom case, which is the subject of numerous legal
challenges and appeals in the South Pacific country's courts.
is free on bail in New Zealand ahead of an extradition hearing in
August and has started a new file-sharing venture called Mega.
said he was not confident about receiving a fair trial in the US but
did not allow the prospect of extradition to weigh on his mind.
"I am innocent. I have done nothing wrong," he said. "I sleep good at night and I know that everything will be okay in the end."