The Supreme Court ruled that U.S. prosecutors were not required to
disclose evidence at a hearing set for July to extradite Dotcom, the
founder of online file sharing site Megaupload, and his three
colleagues to the United States, where they are also charged with
mass copyright infringement, money laundering and racketeering.
Washington charges that the Megaupload website, which was shut down
in 2012, cost film studios and record companies more than $500
million and generated more than $175 million in criminal proceeds by
letting users store and share copyrighted material, such as movies
and TV shows.
If Dotcom, a German national with New Zealand residency, is
extradited, the ensuing copyright case could set a precedent for
internet liability laws, potentially tightening regulations on
disseminating copyrighted material on the Internet.
A successful fight against the charges could force entertainment
companies to rethink online distribution methods.
Friday's ruling, which culminates a series of appeals by both
parties, stated that a lower court was wrong to order disclosure of
evidence in the first place.
Justice John McGrath said in the Supreme Court's decision that a
summary of the evidence had been provided and that was sufficient.
He said Dotcom had not indicated why he could not fight the
extradition charge without full access to the evidence.
The evidence in question refers to documents included in Dotcom's
belongings, including laptops and hard drives, which were seized
when the New Zealand government in 2012 arrested the internet tycoon
at his mansion near Auckland in a SWAT team-style raid requested by
Friday's ruling deals another knock to Dotcom's defense, coming just
a month after the High Court ruled last month that the search
warrant used in the arrest of the entrepreneur and his colleagues
was legal. Dotcom is appealing that decision.
[to top of second column]
U.S. attorney Ira Rothken, a member of Dotcom's legal team, said
that the ruling was "quite robust," adding it could put the defense
at a disadvantage at the extradition hearing.
"We have a much higher hurdle because of today's ruling in getting
disclosures, and that will impact the fairness of the hearing,"
Rothken told Reuters.
Dotcom, who also goes by the name of Kim Schmitz, says Megaupload
was merely an online warehouse and should not be held accountable if
stored content was obtained illegally. The site housed everything
from family photos to Hollywood blockbusters and was one of the most
visited sites on the Internet in its heyday.
The U.S. Justice Department counters that Megaupload encouraged
piracy by paying users who uploaded popular content and by deleting
content that was not regularly downloaded.
(Editing by Stephen Coates)
[© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2014 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.