In part two of Wired.co.uk’s interview with the infamous entrepreneur, we talk about international copyright law, NSA surveillance, Hollywood’s “backward, outdated licensing model”, Barack Obama and Dotcom’s political ambitions.
What do you see as the biggest threat to digital rights at the moment?
The US government. What has been exposed by Edward Snowden is outrageous. It’s frightening that they can get away with so much wrongdoing. I refer to the Iraq war, where they told us about weapons of mass destruction and there was nothing there, or the drone war where they fly over sovereign nations and bomb innocent civilians, the torture prisons of the CIA, Guantanamo Bay… they went totally overboard when it comes to human rights, freedom and things that the US once stood for. They went completely off the rails.
Are there any other organisations you are concerned about?
The most worrying ones are all based in the US. And the other “Five Eyes” members (UK, Canada, New Zealand, Australia) which became one unit to spy on the world. In order for Americans to bypass their national restrictions to spy on Americans, they just reroute their traffic through UK fibre and the UK spy agency takes that traffic and organises it in a nice way — putting voice into text and making it searchable in giant databases. Then if the Americans want to spy on their citizens all they have to do is use the little Prism tool. They type in the email address of a person and one of the Five Eyes partners makes that data available to them. The NSA is hacking its own laws by utilising foreign organisations to spy on their own citizens.
We recently spoke to Peter Sunde, cofounder of The Pirate Bay, and he said that after the banking crisis and the surveillance revelations people aren’t surprised by anything any more…
The banking issue — that’s the funniest thing of all. The US obviously has all the evidence they need to prosecute bankers. They just need to search their own spy database and then there you go — 1,000 bankers in jail, a trillion dollars in fines. But it doesn’t happen. Instead, the spy network is being used to fight a copyright case. They used Prism to spy on me. We know this because the prime minister of New Zealand apologised to me for illegal spying.
They are using it in a copyright case but not using it to take these bankers, who have ripped off so many people and caused these massive economic crises around the world, to jail.
You are suing the New Zealand government for illegally spying on you. What do you hope to achieve with that?
I have a one-month hearing at the High Court in March where I’m taking Government Communications Security Bureau (Kiwi equivalent of GCHQ) to court. I want to find out what they used, how they did it, at what scale and how much data they retrieved about me from Prism when they typed my details into X-Keyscore. I want to shed some light on the scale of illegality in those secret dark corridors that no-one wants us to look at.
Will they not just say they can’t tell you due to national security?
They’ve tried it but the judge has ruled that they have to reveal the details. GCSB wanted to keep the media out of the case but the judge disagreed. They are trying to hide behind national security but the judiciary are not feeling comfortable with the level of abuse that came from GCSB. GCSB has already admitted to spying on 88 others who they refuse to name. We want to find out who they are and give them the same opportunity to sue them.
How’s your main copyright case going? (Dotcom and other MegaUpload execs are accused by the US government of a range of crimes including racketeering, copyright infringement, and money laundering)
It’s not progressing at all. The US government has a strategy of appealing and dragging things out. We have won six court decisions here in New Zealand: the search and seizure was illegal, the shipping away of clones [cloned harddrives] was unlawful, the spying was illegal, but the Americans are just appealing everything. We had an order from two courts [a district court and the New Zealand High Court] that the US government has to provide some evidence. You can’t make this allegation that someone is involved in a global criminal conspiracy under a national organised crime treaty and not provide any. They just appealed that all away. We are waiting on a supreme court decision on that.
Are there any particular sticking points in the process?
The judge in the court in the Eastern District of Virginia [Liam O’Grady], who the prosecution picked. In that court, the judge who is on duty on the day when the Department of Justice files their case is the judge who presides over the case. So they picked the most predictable judge and he’s currently sitting on two decisions. The first is whether users of MegaUpload can get their data back. The second is whether the case against MegaUpload should be dismissed because it never had a US subsidiary. Under US law, the Department of Justice can’t indict a foreign company unless it has an office in the US. But they went and did it anyway. The judge has been sitting on these two decisions for a year. There is no justice for me in the US.
Do you see any evidence to suggest that Hollywood and the music industry are adapting successfully to the evolving digital landscape?
The music industry is, but the movie business is much more complicated. When a movie studio — let’s say Sony Pictures — decides to make a movie today, they take the script, the director’s name and a list of actors to the licensing network (partners around the world) and pitch the movie to them before a single frame is shot. So if the movie costs $100m (£62m), a partner can secure the rights for their country for $10m (£6.2m). That’s why movies can’t be made available simultaneously in different countries. All these licensing partners want to have their own premieres with the actors present. But that doesn’t work in the age of the internet. If you launch a movie in the US and it’s available online somewhere, people will look for it and they will download it because they know it’s out, they see the trailers, they see it in the news and they are tired of waiting 3-6 months before it’s launched in their country.
The problem Hollywood has is a licensing model where they don’t actually own the product in these different countries any more. They can’t just decide tomorrow to create a website where all movies could be available to everyone around the world. Even if they wanted to they don’t have the power to do so because they have to fulfil their obligations with these licensing partners. So there won’t be a website where you can access any movie from any country because of this outdated, backward licensing model that Hollywood doesn’t want to let go because it’s a license to print money; they don’t have to risk their own capital to make movies. This is where the whole dilemma comes from.
What about Netflix?
Netflix is great if you live in the US because the studios keep the rights for the US market, but everywhere else in the world you will find that the offering is a joke.
I thought piracy was your fault?
It’s funny they are trying to blame a guy like me for their totally outdated business model. Hollywood paid for a re-election campaign for Obama and what they bought with that was a law enforcement action against a guy who set up a website that is basically nothing else but a harddrive connected to the internet. To try and blame me when people are using the product to transfer music or movies is outrageous. I’m not the guy uploading movies to my site and making them available. You couldn’t even search for anything on MegaUpload! You cannot find a single infringing link. And they claim in the indictment that this is to hide the infringement. So either you have a search [function] and you are fucked or you don’t have a search [function] and you are fucked too. It’s totally crazy.
What do you think of John Key [New Zealand’s prime minister] saying your political party should be called the No Hope Party?
I will show him. I’ve found some really talented people that want to come on as candidates, I’ve got a good party leadership in place, and good consultants around me. So far the feedback has been really good. The other day someone opened a fake Facebook page calling it the Kim Dotcom Party and within two days the page had 35,000 likes. If I drive to the city (a 30-minute journey) at least 6-8 cars with people will give me the thumbs up.
Can you elaborate on your campaign?
We are focussing on the digital future of New Zealand, the internet economy. We want to improve the connectivity in the country through more submarine cables. Right now New Zealand has just one through a company called Southern Cross Conglomerate, which dictates the pricing. This means people pay much more for broadband here than in Europe or the US. Companies never thought about establishing any data centres in New Zealand because there is no redundancy because we are all hanging on this one cable. If that goes offline, the whole country is offline and these are things that I think are unacceptable.
The party will also have a digital bill of human rights, so we are going to fight against the spying powers here in New Zealand by GCSB. The focus will be on creating tech jobs and bringing Big Data to New Zealand, hosting data here and creating safe harbours for them so they can come and flourish without having to worry about backdoors. It’s kind of a counterweight to what the US is doing.
What do you think about the international treaties such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)?
The TPP is nothing else but a world domination desire by US corporations. Countries that sign it get a small benefit in terms of free trade but they will be bound to the rules of US corporations when it comes to IP. It’s just unbelievable that countries like New Zealand would even consider signing that. It gives no space for any future copyright reform and US corporations can sue the pants off the New Zealand government if they don’t protect their rights. Its Acta and Sopa on steroids. No wonder they were keeping this secret for such a long because it’s outrageous. It’s the corporations lobbying and buying whatever they need to extend their powers. What the TPP proves is that Wall St and Hollywood own Obama. He’s not acting in the best interest of the people. He’s acting in the interest of those corporations that paid for his re-election.
What’s the biggest misconception about you or your businesses?
The US government is saying that my website enabled piracy when the entire internet is enabling priacy. Every ISP that connects people to the internet is enabling piracy — Google is, YouTube is, everybody is. I’m just one side of this massive internet that has to deal with the same issues like everyone else, but they selected me for political reasons. Sopa had just failed and Hollywood was furious. Former senator Chris Dodd joined the MPAA and had promised Hollywood Sopa — he drafted the whole thing and had Congress ready to sign. 75 percent of the votes were for Sopa until Aaron Swartz and his movement made people aware of what Sopa was and the public outcry was so great that they had no other option than to cancel it. MegaUpload was Plan B. If Sopa doesn’t work, we need to give Hollywood something else or they aren’t going to back us in the re-election [ Dodd threatened to cut funding to Obama’s re-election campaign if he didn’t support Sopa].
Obama has been a big friend of the music and movie industry. He’s hosted more celebrity parties in the White House than any other president. In the months after the raid of MegaUpload there were fundraisers in Hollywood for the presidential election and they raised $120 million. That’s more than any other campaign in the history of presidential elections. Hollywood’s biggest contribution ever. That certainly wouldn’t have happened if there wasn’t a Sopa alternative because Hollywood would have just been mad.
Wired.co.uk spoke to Peter Sunde last week and asked him if he had any messages for you. He said that you shouldn’t care so much about money and should care more about society. Do you have any response for him?
I have nothing bad to say about Peter, but if he feels this way he doesn’t know me well enough. Of course when you create cool tools you make money. I’m a business man and I think there’s nothing wrong with being a business man provided you have the right headspace and do good things with the money you make. I prefer being able to choose who I want to help or what I want to improve in the world by making a lot of money myself rather than just going out there and talking about things. If you have money to do things it’s much better than just talking about them.
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– Kim Dotcom blasts New Zealand PM in court
– Kim Dotcom claims US spied on him through Project Echelon
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