The flamboyant entrepreneur, on the run from U.S. prosecutors, Skyped in to SXSW today to plead his case.
Kim Dotcom (a.k.a Kim Schmitz, Kimble, Kim Tim Jim Vesto) Skyped in for a friendly chat today at SXSW.
As many of you may know, the German-born founder of Megaupload is on the lam from U.S. authorities. In July 2012, the Department of Justice coordinated an elaborate siege of Dotcom's 25,000 square-foot mansion in New Zealand, and local authorities placed Dotcom in custody.
Their allegation is that is that Megaupload, a file-sharing service, has facilitated millions of illegal downloads, which they claim cost $500 million in lost revenue for Hollywood. At its peak, Megaupload represented 4 percent of Internet traffic.
After the arrest, Megupload's assets were seized, and virtually overnight, 220 Megaupload employees were fired. The company, which was valued at over $2 billion in an upcoming IPO on the Hong Kong exchange, was essentially reduced to nothing.
But Dotcom refuses to accept the United States' position on the matter. His argument is that, unlike an exchange service like Napster, where users search for content and download illegally, Megaupload never transgressed any infringement laws; There's not even a search function on the site.
"Of all the files that have ever been uploaded, half have never been downloaded," he said today. "People just use it store their stuff."
Similar to Julian Assange, Dotcom enjoys massive support from thousands, if not millions, of people around the world. He's even produced a high-quality four-minute YouTube video, which has been watched more than 1.5 million times since it was uploaded in July, 2012. (Clearly, he's loved by. The top comment? "Kim Schmitz... For President.")
Dotcom's extradition, which will be determined in court in August 2013, will have huge implications for the future of the Web. Namely, his case will determine whether or not the owner of storage systems on the Web have responsibility what's in that storage.
"They can shut down YouTube and Dropbox tomorrow, because there's no difference between us and them," he says. "If you want to find a full length feature film [on there], you can find it."
Dotcom's case has been gaining steam. Earlier this week, Dotcom won the right to sue the New Zealand agency accused of illegally spying on him and his property. And as for the idea that Dotcom will one day face jail time in the United States. Dotcom is confident in his case.
"I'll never be in a prison in the United States," he says. "I'll be an innovator, I'll make new stuff, I'll launch new products."
Eric Markowitz reports on start-ups, entrepreneurs, and issues that affect small businesses. Previously, he worked at Vanity Fair. He lives in New York City. @EricMarkowitz
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