The web entrepreneur shares his thoughts on how his new online portal, Mega, will be different from the old one.
Having seen his Megaupload file-storage site closed, the internet entrepreneur Kim Dotcom has been arrested and released, seen his Auckland mansion raided, and may yet face extradition to the US. But, defiant, as ever, he is back with a successor to Megaupload. Here he is in his own words.
On the raid, one year on
There isn’t a day that you don’t think about it. Because you walk around the house, and all of our funds were frozen so we weren’t able to fix most of the damage, so I still see sledgehammer marks on all the doors, footprints on the walls, holes in the walls. Wherever they caused damage – that scarring is still there. That’s one reminder. And of course the other one is whenever there’s some kind of noise, or it’s getting loud, you’ll rush out of bed and subconsciously you are always worried – here they are again. It’s something that stays with you for some time and I think it will still take some time to overcome that.
On the extradition hearing
We want to have [one]. We want to expose what has happened here. We have a lot of information that shows the political interference. We feel that what happened here was manufactured to destroy Megaupload, and we want to show that.
The only way I see myself settling is with full reinstatement of Mega[upload] and substantial payment for damages. And that’s not going to happen. So we will have an extradition hearing.
On court orders that prosecutors provide evidence
What they are alleging is that we were a “mega-conspiracy”, that we had intent to set up some kind of criminal network that is comparable to a mafia organisation. And that is basically what the whole extradition argument revolves around. And the court has said: “We want to see some evidence in that regard. Show us what you have that confirms this …” If they had such a strong case, and they can prove there is a mega-conspiracy, then why not hand it over?
On how Mega differs from Megaupload
There are quite a few innovations that Megaupload didn’t have. For example, we have built in upload-download acceleration in the browser, which is technology that only became available nine months ago. We have on-the-fly encryption to protect our users’ privacy – because of my own experience having been spied on, and also throughout the proceedings, the US government looking into the files of users, without a warrant …
I think privacy is a very important topic, and more important today for users than ever, because you read about all these privacy violations, and reaching out from companies like Facebook and Instagram, and expanding their rights on what should be yours. We want to create a service that gives you fully automated, real-time, one-click, on-the-fly privacy. You don’t even have to think about it, it just happens.
On user concerns that Mega might suffer the same fate as Megaupload
I agree that there will be a certain degree of anxiety around that, and I can fully appreciate and understand that. I would say that with time, when people see what the site is capable of, when they understand the technology, they read the reviews, and people like it, they’re going to try it, and hopefully over time feel comfortable using it for their personal data.
The good thing here is that you can now be sure when you upload your files into the cloud that only you hold the keys – not the service provider, not anyone else outside the service provider, only you personally hold the keys. And what you do with that is your responsibility.
On how he has changed over the past year
I think what changed the most is my understanding of what is really going on in the world today. When you live in your happy bubble and you have everything you desire and you live a great life, you don’t think about all the nasty shit that is happening. I have a much better understanding now of how the US government operates and how much spying is actually going on, how much privacy intrusion is the reality today. And from that knowledge, I said, I want to do something about that, I don’t want to accept that. I think nobody should accept that.
The kind of invasions in our life that we are seeing as normal today shouldn’t happen – we are very close to George Orwell’s vision becoming a reality.
I see myself in a role now of someone who has been put in this impossible situation, and I’m not only fighting just for myself but for the rights of everybody.
I think they were very naive to go into this but I also think they didn’t really care much. They just wanted to shut us down. We had all these artists supporting us, we had a very popular site. They knew it was 4% of the internet, they knew we had millions of users. And it didn’t stop them, you see?
It was a very politically motivated move, because the MPAA [Motion Picture Association of America], which is behind all of this, has hired Chris Dodd, who is a former senator of I think 30 years, and is a very close friend of the vice-president – actually Joe Biden called him his “best friend in life”. Suddenly you take a power player in the political arena, put him on to a copyright fighting agenda, of course that guy is going to call up all his buddies and say, hey, favours, 30 years, now’s the time for me to call them in. And we know for a fact that Joe Biden had a very active role in this whole thing. The prosecutor in the US that is managing our case, Neal MacBride, was a former employee of Joe Biden. Over 20 years ago he helped Joe Biden with his campaign in his effort to become president, and later he was his personal counsel. Joe Biden put him into the DOJ [department of justice]. So if you connect all the dots, and you see who the operators are behind all of this, you understand the political scope.
They had a political agenda, plus they had an upcoming election, and they needed an alternative for Sopa [the ill-fated Stop Online Piracy Act]. Obama was in Hollywood February, March, April to raise money from his Hollywood supporters for his re-election campaign, and what would he have to show if Sopa failed? It would probably have looked very bleak for him to go to Hollywood and ask them to help him get re-elected when he couldn’t make Sopa happen for them. So Megaupload became a plan B.”
On Aaron Swartz
I don’t want to go into that too much, out of respect for Aaron. All I can say is that I see similarities in the way we have been prosecuted. Over-reaching abuse of power, no due process, just completely insane.
On Julian Assange
It would have been the easiest thing for the Swedish prosecutor to do an interview over a video link. You don’t have to extradite someone to be in Sweden to be interviewed. If you have questions to make up your mind [whether] you want to bring a criminal case against Julian Assange, why not do it over a video link? It’s a reasonable thing. So you have to wonder, why are they not doing that? What is their reasoning behind that?
I think Julian Assange’s fear, that the Swedish government is co-operating with the US government and that there might be an attempt to extradite him from Sweden, is very real. So I sympathise with him. I see also similarities and abuses that are happening in the case against WikiLeaks that were happening to us.
On surveillance culture
In the UN charter, article 12, it says every human being has the right to privacy. And how is that being respected these days by governments around the world? In the US, they are basically monitoring every bit of communication. Not just individually, with a warrant. They just copy everything. They’re spending billions on data centres, they’re one of the biggest purchasers of hard drives, and you wonder what do they need all that storage for? I know what they need it for. Because they continuously capture everything. In the UK, you have a government that installs cameras every 10 metres. They need a reality check … There has to be a balance here, and we’re trying to re-establish that, and give the power back to the people.
I think copyright has a right to exist. If you create something, you don’t want someone else to go and profit from it, you have your right to make a living and everything. So I respect copyright. What I don’t respect is copyright extremism. And I what I don’t respect is a business model that encourages piracy. Hollywood has a business model where they release their product at different times in different markets. In the age of the internet you can’t do that.
If Hollywood would find a way – and I would instantly know several ways – how to solve its business model and create something that is available to everyone online at the same time and have a really nice offering, they could beat companies like Google in terms of market cap – I mean these guys have what everyone wants. They have the content that everyone wants. Google has no content. Google is making $40bn profit a year – I think – based on advertising by linking to stuff. They don’t create the stuff that they’re linking to. Now imagine if you would create something that has all the content in there. You could make 10 times more money than Google does because you have the rights to that stuff. You could create a very valuable internet business. Hollywood has totally missed the internet opportunity, and it’s now other players that are doing that for them … There’s so much money to be made, and those fools don’t get it. They just don’t get it.
The Hollywood industry is more hated than ever now. That can’t be good for business. There are people now out there who out of principle wouldn’t go into a cinema or buy any product from them, simply because they are interfering with everybody’s rights. And they are doing it in a malicious fashion, with corrupt methods – paying politicians and using their political influence. It’s just wrong.
I always thought of myself as more American than Americans when I was living in Germany, because I always had this attitude of can-do, and if you’re successful you can show it, which is a very un-German thing, you know. And now, in hindsight, looking at this, the US has lost a lot of its flair for me. It’s becoming such an aggressive state, that is really harming people’s rights, and I just want to do everything I can to fight that.
On the endgame
I’m not evil, you know? I’m a good guy. Everyone who knows me likes me … They should really come to the table, come to their senses and work this out. Because I’m not going to cave in. I’m going to fight this thing. And there’s no way in hell that they have any chance to win this. I don’t see it. I don’t see it because I know I’m innocent, and the lawyers know I’m innocent, and we have right on our side.
Asked to name his internet heroes
Sergey Brin and Larry Page, founders of Google: they have changed the landscape of the internet like no other. Their whole philosophy of making information available to everyone, and the power that Google has become in providing knowledge to people, I would say is the most important achievement of society in this whole internet age.
Mathias Ortmann, chief technical officer, Megaupload: a true genius, a brilliant developer, and he had to go through hell in this whole indictment against us … With all of this pressure on him he managed to create a really outstanding solution that I’m really proud about – he is definitely one of my heroes.
Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia founder: it’s things like Wikipedia that help us to advance as a society, and help us to accelerate our evolution. If you’re a researcher and you need some answer to something, and in today’s world you can find it this quickly, it allows you to develop whatever you are doing much faster.