By Charlotte Greenfield
WELLINGTON (Reuters) – Lawyers for German entrepreneur Kim Dotcom, wanted in the United States on copyright infringement and money-laundering charges over his file-sharing website Megaupload, argued on Wednesday there was not enough evidence to show he conspired to commit a crime.
The Auckland court heard closing arguments in Dotcom’s four-week appeal against a lower court’s decision to extradite him to the U.S., the first New Zealand court proceedings to be broadcast live on the internet.
The appeal took place nearly five years after dozens of black-clad police rappelled into the flamboyant entrepreneur’s New Zealand mansion and cut him from a safe room.
U.S. authorities say Dotcom and three co-accused Megaupload executives cost film studios and record companies more than $500 million and generated more than $175 million by encouraging paying users to store and share copyrighted material.
The four deny wrongdoing and are on bail.
The case has been closely watched by the media industry and developers in the file-sharing business for signs of how far the United States is willing to go to protect copyright holders.
“Dotcom is one of these poster boys for these file sharing sites,” said Marcelo Rodriguez Ferrere, an administrative law academic at Otago University.
“A successful extradition to the U.S. could make this a really important case down the track for determining the legality or otherwise of sites like Mega.”
Years of legal wrangling followed Dotcom’s arrest in the police raid in 2012 and it emerged that the Government Communications Security Bureau had illegally spied on him before the raid.
While the main arguments have now been heard, a few technical matters have yet to be argued in court. Lawyers said a decision was likely to be weeks away – and it was unlikely to be the final word.
“Given the stakes of this case, the losing party will likely appeal any adverse judgment to the Court of Appeal,” said Ira Rothken, a lawyer representing Dotcom, in an email.
The appeal set a precedent when the judge gave permission for the hearing to be streamed on YouTube, but legal experts at the time had warned that appeals hearings tend to be similar to “watching paint dry”.
Rodriguez Ferrere said the “monolithically boring” nature of the entire proceeding “turned everybody off”.
The final afternoon’s proceedings only attracted around 100 viewers online, according to YouTube.
(Reporting by Charlotte Greenfield; Additional reporting by Rebecca Howard; Editing by Nick Macfie)