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August 15th, 2012

Kim Dotcom – ‘Dr. No’ Meets ‘Mars Attacks’

When the feds enlisted the help of New Zealand authorities to arrest Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom, I figured there was evidence. I’d forgotten that this is the new USA, where the concept that proof is vital in criminal proceedings seems to have died long ago. This is a fact the New Zealand courts are now realizing, as they delve into the matter of their police’s involvement in the fiasco.

They’re also discovering that New Zealand law enforcement was acting on information that could come out of any cold war spy movie from the sixties. Our feds thought Dotcom had a suicide device, a way to instantly destroy the evidence and escape their justice. New Zealand Herald‘s David Fisher quotes testamony from Detective Inspector Grant Wormald, in charge of the New Zealand raid on Dotcom’s home:

“Mr Wormald said he was told by the FBI that Dotcom ‘carried a device with him to delete servers around the world’. Earlier evidence stated no such device was ever found.

“Mr Davison, who had called it a ‘Doomsday’ device, was told the device could have been triggered in seconds from any computer, laptop or phone in the possession of about 20 people on the property.”

I guess that’s plausible, especially if you buy the theory that he’s a mastermind criminal with a plot to end intellectual property as we know it. From here, the story takes a twist into comic relief:

“The QC then quoted police evidence which showed one of the men facing extradition was left with his iPhone for almost an hour.

“‘The potential destruction device had been left in his pocket.’

“Mr Wormald replied: ‘It happens to be something that shouldn’t have happened at the time.'”

Yeah. It happens all the time over here too, Mr. Wormald.

Now that the New Zealand courts have the case, it appears as if the Megaupload king might, with luck, escape extradition to the United States. Even so, it’s doubtful his servers and data will ever be returned. Legitimate customers still can’t access their data, which remains in U.S. government hands. Dotcom, however, acts as if he’s holding a winning hand, having recently announced to his Twitter followers that he intends to launch a new service, Megabox, later this year.

What he envisions isn’t merely Megaupload risen-from-the-ashes; Dotcom plans much grander ways to be disruptive. With Megabox, he plans to reinvent the way music is distributed and who makes money on it. ZDNet‘s Charlie Osborne explains:

“Revealed last year by TorrentFreak, the Megabox platform is designed, at least in theory, to turn the media industry on its head. Due to be hosted on domain Megabox.com, the service will allow ‘artists to sell their creations direct to consumers and allowing artists to keep 90 percent of earnings.’

Citing an invention called the ‘Megakey’, Dotcom said that when users download music for free on the website, artists will still earn revenue. According to the Megaupload founder, the new business model has already been tested successfully with over a million users.”

Doubtlessly, the Internet could use a revamping of the way music is distributed. Traditional record companies can’t justify their existence in an age when an artist can easily sell music directly to the public, especially if it’s music they’ve written. Sooner or later someone’s going to implement a system like this.

I don’t know that Dotcom’s the person to do it. I’m not sure a man convicted of embezzlement and insider trading should be trusted handling recording artists money. Also, his massive legal woes with the U.S. are far from over, even if he does manage to escape extradition. No matter how flimsy the case may be, I don’t think that Justice will let him go easily.

Perhaps Megabox is why.

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Christine Hall has been a journalist since 1971. In 2001, she began writing a weekly consumer computer column and started covering Linux and FOSS in 2002 after making the switch to GNU/Linux. Follow her on Twitter: @BrideOfLinux

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