Amsterdam & Partners will work for free, at least until Dotcom gets his money back from the US authorities
A legal team from London will join Kim Dotcom’s defence alongside colleagues from Paris to try and prove he didn’t create cloud hosting platform Megaupload to encourage online piracy.
Ichay & Mullenex and Amsterdam & Partners will work alongside Rothken Law Firm, which has been fighting against Dotcom’s extradition to the US where he is accused of copyright theft, money laundering and other offences, facing a jail sentence of up to 20 years.
The partnership was announced at a breakfast meeting in London, which was attended by Dotcom himself, via telepresence.
Team America: World Police
The meeting on Tuesday was unusual: instead of complaining about human rights abuses in Russia or China, several lawyers singled out the US as a nation which ignores the rule of law.
Remembering the Stuxnet virus, which was allegedly created by the US and Israel to disrupt the Iranian nuclear programme, Diane Mullenex, a corporate lawyer with 19 years of experience, warned against the abuses of state power in the digital age.
This sentiment was echoed by Robert Amsterdam, who founded the firm that represented former president of Zambia Rupiah Banda, former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and Mikhail Khodorkovsky, once the wealthiest man in Russia.
“We are living in an era of unsurpassed extra-legality,” said Amsterdam. “We are in what legal theoreticians would call a ‘permanent emergency’. Since 9/11, laws are being made at a record pace, and they are destroying what’s left of our rights.”
“We have watched the US promote its cultural industries through overbroad copyright enforcement and argue this precedent [Megaupload] stifle their own speech,” he added.
In 2011, urged by the US copyright holders, authorities wiretapped Dotcom’s communications (some say with the help of ECHELON), and later conducted a military-style raid on the enterpreneur’s mansion, which, according to the lawyers, violated “numerous laws”.
Amsterdam thinks that following the defeat of SOPA and PIPA in the US Congress, the White House decided to make an example of Dotcom, in an act that some commentators call “techno-McCarthyism”.
“One of the things I admire about Kim Dotcom is that after everything he had gone through, he had the courage to build a new business with new technology, and set up an entirely new form of cloud storage. It is an honour to represent him,” said the lawyer.
“We’ve had problems with piracy”
The US maintains that Megaupload was a criminal organisation from day one. However, Dotcom’s story of the origin of the site sounds a bit different: “In 2005, I wanted to send an email to someone, and the attachment was larger than 10 megabytes,” the German-born entrepreneur told the audience in London. “The email server said it couldn’t go through because of the file size, so I wanted to create something that could bypass that. Megaupload allowed users to host files on the platform, and then send links to their friends or business partners.”
“The company grew very quickly, because people found it to be a useful tool. At the peak of our success, we were signing up 50 million users per day. Then the platform evolved to feature video streaming, with Megavideo becoming the largest competitor to YouTube,” added Dotcom.
Dotcom says that like “everyone else on the Internet”, Megaupload was struggling with piracy, and that’s why it offered takedown tools to copyright holders. Instead of using those tools, copyright protection agencies decided to shut down one of the biggest sites on the net.
Dotcom is convinced that his prosecution is politically motivated, but he is also confident that the lawsuit will not hold up in court. At the moment, his attention is focused on Mega, and the yet-unnamed encrypted email service which will be launched in the near future.
“We have begun a very important fight on two fronts. Our objectives: firstly, restore some integrity, in terms of stopping this massive extra-territorial march of the US law, and secondly, intensify this battle over Internet freedom. While we sit here, the Internet is being chopped up and divided between aggressive nation states,” warned Amsterdam.
“All of us need to be on our guard if we are to protect what is left of our rights, and we need to spend some time in figuring out how we can assert those rights, so our children can enjoy them,” he concluded.
Dotcom’s extradition hearing is scheduled for 25 March.
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