By Drew Wilson
Kim Dotcom’s problems with the record labels isn’t just limited to anything that is related to the shutdown of MegaUpload. With the launch of a new service called “Mega” just days away, Dotcom got ads to air on a radio station. But the music industry wasn’t thrilled just with the idea of the site, so they pressured MediaWorks, the radio stations owners, to pull the plug on their ads.
After a long and eventful road with his online services, Kim Dotcom is hoping to start anew with a service called “Mega”. It is widely seen as a replacement to the now shuttered website “MegaUpload” which was a cloud storage service (or, “cyber locker” or “one-click hoster” as it was termed back when it was still operating) that didn’t require registration to use. With the launch of Mega just days away (specifically, set to launch on the 20th), record labels don’t seem thrilled with the prospect that Dotcom is launching another service and are going to extraordinary lengths to keep it from being a success.
As reported by TVNZ, Dotcom was airing ads for the new service on the lead up to a grand opening bash at his mansion. It’s nothing out of the ordinary that one builds hype for their opening of a new website – especially when its a business.
Unfortunately, when record labels caught wind that ads were airing on a radio station for the service, they contacted the stations parent company MediaWorks and pressured them to pull the plug on the ads. Dotcom says he doesn’t blame the radio station or the parent company for the actions they took, but rather, placed blame on the record labels. From TVNZ:
But Dotcom tweeted today: “Unfortunately Mediaworks pulled the plug on our radio ad campaign :-(.”
“Apparently some music labels complained to Mediaworks about our radio ads. Booking of over 500 ad plays terminated. Wow!!!,” Dotcom posted.
Dotcom said he was “not blaming Mediaworks”.
“They are a great company with great people. It’s the music labels that are abusing their power, again,” the German national tweeted.
This isn’t the first time Mega became a target by forces in the US. In November of last year, the US government pressured the government of Gabon to pull the Mega domain Me.ga citing potential copyright infringement and “unscrupulous people”. When we saw the website at the time, it was merely a logo, some text about the service and a way to freely subscribe to a newsletter about the domain. There was no evidence that Me.ga infringed on copyright nor any evidence it broke any laws. Regardless of its seemingly legal status, the domain was pulled anyway.
The Long Legal Battle of MegaUpload and Copyright Holders
Of course, Dotcom and rightsholders go much farther back than the Mega service. Nearly a year ago, New Zealand authorities raided Dotcom’s mansion and servers hosted by Carpathia. Controversially, helicopters and semi-automatic rifles were used to conduct the raid when it wasn’t clear why so much force was necessarily needed in a case revolving around copyright infringement. This was all based on allegations by Hollywood and US authorities that MegaUpload was used primarily for copyright infringement. After Dotcom was arrested, he faced extradition hearings where he faced multiple charges in the US. This was about as good the case ever got for the US. From there, things seemed to unravel.
The contents of the servers were seized based on an executed warrant. While the case was being reviewed, the contents were brought to the US for examination. Defense lawyers unsurprisingly demanded to see the evidence against their client, but prosecutors said that the evidence gathered was far too significant in volume to simply show the courts. At the same time, prosecutors demanded that Dotcom be extradited to the US anyway even though they weren’t going to be forthcoming with the evidence. That didn’t sit well with the judge who gave a deadline for prosecutors to produce not only evidence being used against Dotcom, but any evidence that could be used to vindicate Dotcom, his staff and website. The deadline came and went and no evidence was produced. The warrant used to seize the data was then declared unlawful which seemed to put all the evidence being used against him in some strange legal limbo as it was technically stolen at that point.
Meanwhile, things weren’t looking up in the US either. Customers who used MegaUpload to back up their data were demanding in court with the help of people like the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) to get their data back. In one case, someone had a hard drive with footage got corrupted on the day of the raids. While that individual was arguing to get their own content back, US prosecutors were reluctant to allow that individual to have access because the servers could also have been used for copyright infringement. At one point, prosecutors suggested that the individual go after MegaUpload instead of those that took it offline – an argument that didn’t sit well with many observers who were more on side with MegaUpload. Of course, many MegaUpload users are in a similar boat including myself. I personally posted music I produced to MegaUpload as a method of distribution to potential listeners. At the time, I wasn’t happy knowing that US authorities effectively censored me even though I used the service legally. Fortunately, I was able to reupload my music on other cloud services, so the data loss wasn’t permanent. Still, it’s the principle of it all that upset me. The case for people trying to get their own data back is still ongoing.
The problems don’t end there though.
There’s still the data contained by Carpathia. Since it’s a large amount of data, servers need to be maintained and the servers need to stay plugged in, there is the question of what to do with it all – especially since it was costing the company a lot of money. Prosecutors argued that since they collected what they wanted, the data could be wiped. They also said that they shouldn’t bear the cost of maintaining those servers when Carpathia opted to keep the data. Kim Dotcom offered to pay for it, but authorities argued that he could take the data and restart the website, so he was banned from touching it altogether. That left the hosting company in legal limbo as they have to maintain the data for free.
As part of the raids, authorities also seized all financial assets including bank accounts. This forced Dotcom to ask his lawyers to, for the time being, work for free. Luckily, the lawyers agreed to work under those conditions. Since Dotcom hired a lawyer with a lot of knowledge on intellectual property laws, that seemed to make prosecutors nervous because they argued that such a lawyer represents a conflict of interest given that he worked on cases for rightsholders in the past, so therefor, that lawyer can’t work on the case at all on the other side. To our knowledge, that argument didn’t really work too well.
More recently, results from a worldwide warrant to get all the data from all servers ever used for MegaUpload are coming in. According to information linked to in a posting on Slashdot, Canadian courts rejected a request by US authorities to obtain mirror copies of all the data on 32 servers saying that the search warrant needed to be refined than what was being asked. No doubt that this could represent yet another setback for US authorities given that it could be a sign of things to come for other countries as well.
While the drama will no doubt continue, it will be interesting to see how everything continues to unfold.
Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85