From copyright to a world without borders

From copyright to a world without borders, Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom has truly opened a can of worms.

From copyright to a world without borders, Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom has truly opened a can of worms.

Last week, the New Zealand media seemed most disinterested in the goings on concerning the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and related copyright matters. The action was taking place a long distance away in the United States, and seemed of little concern to a small island at the bottom of the South Pacific.

Internet New Zealand expressed some opposition to SOPA, and there were efforts from one group to "New Zealandise" the campaigning to drum up interest here.

Of course, New Zealand has been here before — protesting copyright laws — which only ended in the government delivering its contentious "three-strikes" law: the Cybernet Bill. Perhaps that explains why the country's journalists were reluctant to open that can of worms again.

But events turned around on Friday, with Dotcom's arrest sparking mass media attention.

Such interest has been focused on the eccentricities of Dotcom himself, rather than the rights and wrongs of his activities, and the implications of his arrest and potential extradition to the United States.

I was in court yesterday, and noted the sparseness of tech journos around, with the proceedings largely being covered by mainstream media, including television.

They are serving titillating tabloid fare, describing Dotcom's lavish lifestyle of fast cars, fast women, multiple passports and so on.

However, the issues at stake are significant, and they deserve a far wider audience than what we have seen to date. The case is happening right at a crux point for copyright law, where governments will decide how it needs to operate in today's internet age.

It may well be that the New Zealand government has to revisit the subject. Australia has quickly rejected the imposition of any SOPA-style Act, and, once our rookie ICT Minister Amy Adams has read up on the subject, it is likely that New Zealand will do the same.

But the pressures of Hollywood on the tech community will continue, along with its bankrolling of politicians, such as US President Barack Obama, who has rewarded his supporters quite well to date, particularly where "green" technologies are concerned.

Thus, despite SOPA losing support in the US this week, expect it or something similar to arise again, along with its global implications. After all, today's online world is increasingly a world without borders.

We see this in the global nature of Dotcom's website, with Megaupload being a Hong Kong-based company working from servers in the US, Canada and the Netherlands.

Investigations into its activities involved authorities from New Zealand, the United States, the UK, Canada and the Philippines.

Dotcom himself is of German origin, but he now has New Zealand and Hong Kong residency, along with two Finnish passports. He truly is a global citizen!

The same can be said for his co-accused, who were also arrested on Friday. Bram van der Kolk, 29, is from the Netherlands, but is a New Zealand resident; and Finn Batato, 38, and Mathias Ortmann, 40, are both from Germany. Other co-accused come from Estonia and Slovakia.

During Monday's bail application, the prosecution spoke of how easy it is for them to operate Megaupload from just about anywhere in the world, and that they could also do it independent of one another.

One factor behind the timing of the arrests on Friday was that it made it easier for the authorities to arrest Dotcom, as many of his co-accused were in New Zealand for his birthday party.

The investigation was certainly a case of international collaboration. Other issues of national sovereignty also arise from the investigation itself, which some questioned. Is New Zealand allowing itself to be bullied by the USA, not only in terms of copyright legislation, but also in their willingness to help American authorities?

As I said, Dotcom truly has opened a can of worms!

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