Search This Blog

Monday, June 4, 2012

Megaupload, ebooks, and Hollywood

About six months ago I wrote "Mega Oh Oh!"  This was about Kim Dotcom (yes, his real name) and his company  As you may recall the US government made a big show of, along with New Zealand authorities, bursting into his home in New Zealand, shutting down his web site, and arresting him because people were using his site to share music and videos.

In my post I said "I bet Mr. Dotcom also has a crack international team of lawyers too.  No doubt he never even imagined this would happen - nope - he's just a dumb crook.  Just happened upon a web site for sale that did all this.  Just happened to set it up in a jurisdiction where the legal idea of "intellectual property theft" are clear on the fact that its the "sharer" that's the crook - no the "dial tone."

I suggested that the case might not go well in the long run for the US and its cronies in Hollywood.

It turns out that not only was my sarcasm on the money, but the US government has also made some serious blunders in the case.

First off the US forgot that in order to charge a company with a crime in the US the company must have a presence in the US - something like an office, a PO Box, a legal US address, a bill from the IRS, something.  Megaupload rented space on servers in the US but it did not have an office anywhere: you see Megaupload is a Hong Kong corporation with offices in Hong Kong.

So this the first fundamental problem for the US.  Kim Dotcom's company is outside the jurisdiction of the US and Hollywood.

The US has also been angling to get Mr. Dotcom extradited to the US as part of their scheme.

To do this their charges, which must be presented to New Zealand authorities for approval, involve criminal copyright infringement.

Criminal copyright infringement, you ask?

Yes, this is a new type of crime invented by the US specifically for the purpose of arresting and extraditing Mr. Dotcom.

Copyright cases are civil cases, not criminal cases.  The chief difference is that there are no criminal penalties, only civil penalties if you are convicted.  But the US, in order to make the rest of their case as it relates to a criminal enterprise (RICO, conspiracy, etc.) had to show that Mr. Dotcom was acting like a criminal - not merely breaking civil law.

So the US whipped up a charge of criminal copyright infringement, which was basically bogus, and then demanded that Mr. Dotcom's lawyer's not see the charges against him until he was in the US.  Unfortunately for US Mr. Dotcom's competent lawyer, Ira Rothkin, saw through this and convinced New Zealand authorities that the wool was being pulled over their collective eyes.

So now the US must convince New Zealand that its idea of what crimes where committed are actually in accordance with New Zealand law.  The only problem is that New Zealand does not have a criminal copyright law.  So people are starting to question whether or not it will even be possible to extradite Mr. Dotcom to the US.

New Zealand has given Mr. Dotcom his house back, his ability to move freely about the country, and even a $60,000 NZD allowance from his fortune to live on while the lawyers wrangle in court.

At the bottom of all this is, of course, the fact that New Zealand does not have a Hollywood (save for Weta) that drives its enforcement of copyright law.  Nor does Hong Kong where Megaupload is headquartered.

Ira Rothkin has pointed out on numerous occasions that if copyright was infringed then it was the users of Megaupload that did it - not the company.

As I pointed out in my original post if you don't blame the user for his or her own actions then you must blame everyone else: the internet providers, the computer makers, the hard drive makers, etc. etc. etc. because all of them are indirectly involved in that their equipment was used for the supposed crime.

This would be like arguing that the maker of the get-a-way car, e.g., Ford, was responsible for the the bank robbery.

Isn't it interesting that in the world of books, unlike music, where Kindle's and Nooks and iPads all exist using digital content no one is having the same kinds of problems (certainly there are lawsuits and US government involvement - but not with cases like this).  The book publishers I think realized that they did not want to create hatred among their users like the RIAA did by suing music lovers.

They wisely created and accepted the various technologies that came along decided to work among themselves rather than against their customers.  As such you see articles like this showing that ebooks don't have to destroy print book sales.

The bottom line is that Hollywood and the RIAA were slow out of the gate and did not embrace technology save for their own advantage.  Certainly there is not law or right that says movies and music must be in digital form.  These groups could have, for example, not opted for DVDs at all and simply shown movies only at the theater.

Similarly, before computers, the RIAA and its cronies worked hard to make sure that technologies like DAT drives that could record audio at high quality were expensive so that they would not work well as tools to violate copyright.  They could have gone back vinyl to prevent copyright infringement.

But they chose not too because it was more profitable to sell CD's and DVD's.

And some how this is all Mr. Dotcom's fault...

No comments:

Post a Comment