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The legal saga of Kim Dotcom

Chris CottrellAugust 26, 2016

The legal saga of one of the world's most recognizable internet entrepreneurs enters a new phase on Monday when Kim Dotcom is set to appear before a New Zealand court to appeal his extradition to the United States.

Neuseeland Gericht genehmigt Auslieferung von Kim Dotcom an USA
Image: Reuters/C. Cameron

In 2012, a flamboyant computer whiz from Germany with a penchant for extravagance came to embody the battle between Hollywood and those accused of infringing on the entertainment industry's copyrights.

On one side, there was Kim Dotcom, born Kim Schmitz, and legions of subscribers to his Megaupload file-sharing website. They were up against the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which was investigating the self-proclaimed "internet freedom fighter" for intellectual property rights violations and money laundering and demanding his extradition to the US.

The ensuing legal battle - as well as the stranger-than-fiction twists and turns in Dotcom's private life - enraptured news media and their audiences around the world. Now those legal proceedings are culminating in an extradition appeal hearing set to open on Aug. 29.

At stake is not Dotcom's guilt or innocence, but rather a decision on whether there is substantial evidence against the expatriated ex-hacker to justify handing him over to US authorities. A district court in New Zealand already ruled in favor of extraditing Dotcom, but he appealed.

A victor and a victim

Dotcom insists he did nothing illegal by making a website available where users could freely share files - whether they owned the necessary copyrights or not. He also says he was unaware of any malfeasance. The FBI says it has copies of emails that prove otherwise.

Dotcom has portrayed himself as a victim of a heavy-handed US government, one that will stop at nothing to protect the interests of a powerful industry with considerable influence in Washington.

In 2012, the same year the FBI shut down Megaupload, armed police officers raided Dotcom's lavish country estate, and New Zealand's domestic spy agency was found to be illegally intercepting his communications.

The FBI, which has jurisdiction over copyright infringement, alleges Dotcom and his co-conspirators deprived the owners of movie and music rights of more than $500 million (443 million euros) while pocketing over $175 million in ad revenue and premium subscription sales from Megaupload, once the 13th most popular site on the internet.

The good life

Last year, a US Federal Court ruled that Dotcom could be considered a "fugitive" since he refused to stand trial in the US. That decision blocked Dotcom from unfreezing millions of dollars' worth of assets held in Hong Kong and New Zealand.

After that, even the former NSA employee turned whistleblower Edward Snowden rallied to Dotcom's cause, calling out the government for going after alleged internet pirates more fiercely than public officials who break the law.

Throughout the legal scuffling, Dotcom has not shied away from the limelight. He frequently posts pictures of his family and sympathetic articles about his case on Twitter, where he also plugs a new version of Megaupload that he says will revolutionize encryption and security in the cloud and bring the cryptocurrency Bitcoin "to the masses."

One video posted on YouTube titled "Kim Dotcom - Good Life," showcases his life of luxury, complete with an infinity pool at the back of his yacht that transforms into a helicopter landing pad.

The extradition appeal hearing starts in the Auckland High Court on Monday.