New Zealand Folk hero Kim Dotcom has struck another blow for Internet freedom by launching a new cloud file storage service, called MEGA, one year to the minute after the FBI shut down Megaupload, froze his funds and induced New Zealand security services to launch a SWAT team raid on his Auckland home and seize all his computer equipment. The Obama administration’s demand that New Zealand extradite him to the US to stand trial for Internet piracy is still in the New Zealand courts. They are questioning the legality of the raid on his home. Dotcom has claimed all along that, as a third party intermediary, Megaupload was no more guilty of piracy than YouTube. At this point, it seems the only intellectual properties lawyers who don’t share this view work for the US Department of Justice.
The Role of Chris Dodd and MPAA
Dotcom believes the Motion Picture Association of America’s million dollar lobbyist, former Senator Chris Dodd, used his long time friendship with Vice president Joe Biden to persuade him to go after Dotcom. According to the Megaupload founder, Hollywood played a key role in getting Obama elected in 2008 but had nothing to show for it. He claims the President needed a success after Congress failed to pass the Stop Internet Piracy Act (SOPA) the MPAA wanted, so taking down Dotcom was “Plan B.”
According to an article in Gather, he sees similarities in the vicious and unlawful way the Obama administration has attacked other Internet freedom advocates, especially the late Aaron Swartz (the Reddit co-founder who recently killed himself in response to over the top bullying by federal prosecutors) and Julian Assange. He’s gratified by the new bill, dubbed “Aaron’s Law,” Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) has introduced. It amends the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), used to charge Swartz, to exclude terms of service violations.
Dotcom’s New Financial Backers
Because Dotcom’s funds are still frozen, he has relied on international investors to launch his new venture. It goes without saying that their lawyers have gone over his website with a fine tooth comb. They have declared it squeaky clean in terms of intellectual property law.
Privacy From Government Spying
Dotcom claims MEGA is an improvement on Megaupload in important ways, including improved privacy. As Forbes describes, MEGA employs User Controlled “symmetrical encryption”, where the user holds both the encryption and the decryption key. This makes it impossible for the site to hand over stored files to government authorities under subpoena, unlike Dropbox and other major file storage services.
The MEGA website invokes the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 12 (an injunction against “arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence.”), in explaining how User Controlled Encryption (UCE) works. I bet the FBI, CIA, Department of Homeland Security and US Department of Justice all really love this feature. However given the support Dotcom is receiving from the New Zealand courts, there’s not a whole lot they can do about it.
The MEGA site got a million hits during its first twenty-four hours of operation.
For more background on New Zealand’s most famous German immigrant, read more here