Kim Dotcom: the geek bearing gifts
Whether or not Kim Dotcom wins his fight with the United States authorities, he has already achieved total victory in the court of public opinion. The flamboyant internet businessman excels at thumbing his nose at the US. In doing so, he has become a cyberhero to geeks, hackers and programmers around the world.
Now the one-time Hong Kong resident has done it again, promising to offer free broadband access to all households in New Zealand, his adopted country, with funds he hopes to get from suing the US government and Hollywood studios for destroying his billion-dollar business, the Megaupload file storage website, once based in Hong Kong.
Needless to say, it's a publicity stunt, but enough to draw attention to the unholy alliance between the US entertainment industry and Washington.
Dotcom, you may recall, is out on bail after the New Zealand High Court ruled a police raid at his luxury home in January was illegal. The ruling has made New Zealand and its police look like America's puppets.
But he is still fighting an extradition bid by the US to bring him to court on piracy charges. The alleged offences stem from the widely popular, now-defunct Megaupload site, which offered movie, music and game files to users for free. The US film studios claim the material was protected by copyright, and Washington is going after Dotcom on their behalf.
Megaupload was just one of many free-content sites on the web. It's unclear why the alleged copyright violations should not be a civil matter to be pursued by the studios themselves, rather than a criminal case. The FBI and federal prosecutors have turned the arrests of Dotcom and his colleagues into an international incident. They are clearly out to make an example of these men, but the attempt has backfired. Even more questionable, indeed absurd, was how the New Zealand government agreed to send in heavily armed police to do America's dirty work.
The US case against Dotcom is looking more and more like an overreach. Free content is a fact of life on the web. It's time US studios accepted reality and built a new, sustainable business model for the internet age rather than defend an outdated notion of copyright long superseded by technology.