Megaupload operator’s extradition to US delayed on a technicality in New Zealand

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New Zealand’s Supreme Court has upheld decisions by lower courts that the operators of the Megaupload torrent site, which is said to have consumed 4% of the capacity of the Internet a decade ago, can be extradited to the United States to be tried on copyright infringment charges.

In 2015, although the legal team of the accused – Kim Dotcom (his legal name) and three colleagues – disagreed, a lower-level court decided that extradition to the US could occur, and ultimately, the Supreme Court has agreed.

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The alleged copyright abuse was said to have cost movie and music producers US$500m.

Read prior highlights of this case in Piracy Monitor

What were the charges?

Twelve of the charges qualified for extradition, including “racketeering conspiracy, conspiring to commit copyright infringement, five charges of wilful copyright infringement including by distributing a pre-release copy of the movie Taken, and five wire fraud counts,” according to reporting by The New Zealand Herald.

Read further current details in The New Zealand Herald

Delay on a technicality

But there’s a technicality: under New Zealand’s Extradition Act, to qualify for extradition, offenses must also be recognized as crimes in New Zealand.  “The Supreme Court was to consider whether there was double criminality – meaning would the allegations contained in the US charges also be criminal offences in New Zealand. But the court found there to be no matching offence for … an allegation of conspiracy to commit money laundering, and it discharged the group on that count,” said The Herald.

Further complexities

In another wrinkle, Dotcom accused New Zealand’s Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) of spying on him prior to Megaupload’s shut-down, in an effort to gather evidence of copyright infringement.  This was subsequently caught up in interpretations of New Zealand’s Evidence Act, with the GCSB arguing that recordings made while GCSB was investigating Dotcom should remain private, to protect the rights of the accused.  This had the effect of complicating the ability to prove copyright infringement.

Why it matters

Proof of infringement can become a highly complicated matter, and in this case, several issues have interfered with the determination as to whether (and how much of) this situation would have been deemed illegal under New Zealand law.

Only when these questions have been cleared, would Dotcom and colleagues be extradited to the United States to be tried there under copyright infringement charges.

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