New Zealand court hears of “conspiracy” in Dotcom case

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Wellington (dpa) – Internet entrepreneur Kim Dotcom and three colleagues conspired to deliberately attract copyright-infringing material to their websites, an Auckland court heard Thursday.

It was the first day of a hearing to decide whether Dotcom and his colleagues should be extradited to the United States over their former online storage and file sharing website Megaupload.

Lawyer Christine Gordon, acting for the crown on behalf of the United States government, told the court the case against the four could be summed up in a single sentence.

“The respondents were part of a conspiracy, they deliberately attracted copyright-infringing material to their websites, they deliberately preserved it, deliberately took steps to profit from that material, and made vast sums of money which they applied to various purposes, knowing it had been unlawfully acquired.”

She said Megaupload offered small cash rewards to users who uploaded popular content, which tended to be material which infringed copyright.

Gordon told the court that when copyright holders asked for material to be removed from Megaupload, it was in fact only the URL links which were taken down, not the material itself.

Gordon alleged that Skype and email messages between the men showed they knew they were “not 100-per-cent legit.”

She read a 2010 Skype message to the courtroom in which Dotcom allegedly said, “at some point a judge will be convinced about how evil we are and then we’ll be in trouble.”

Gordon said Megaupload made 25 million US dollars from advertising and another 150 million US dollars from premium subscriptions.

Dotcom said on Twitter, “The US has presented its case and it sounded like digital nuclear bomb. But we know the US likes to lie about WMDs. Wait for our rebuttal.”

The hearing before Auckland District Court Judge Nevin Dawson is to decide whether Dotcom and colleagues Mathias Ortmann, Bram van der Kolk and Finn Batato should be extradited to the US to face charges of criminal copyright infringement, conspiring to commit copyright infringement, engaging in racketeering and conspiring to commit money laundering.

Dotcom, who is 2 metres tall and weighed about 136 kilogrammes at the time of his arrest in 2012, was given permission to bring his own black leather armchair to court due to his back problems.

The hearing is expected to last 4 weeks.

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