It may have taken over three years, but the Kim Dotcom extradition hearing started this week and – as with everything to do with the case – it’s big.
The well-known internet businessmen and three co-accused, Bram van der Kolk, Mathias Ortmann and Finn Batato, were arrested in January 2012 in a raid on Mr Dotcom’s mansion in Coatesville, north of Auckland.
The hearing, to which Dotcom brought his own chair for ergonomic reasons, is expected to last weeks.
It was the first time Dotcom and his legal team had drawn on this section of the 1994 Copyright Act.
“We feel as though Kim Dotcom … will not have a fair procedural playing field because he won’t have any assets with which to mount a defence for the largest copyright case in history”.
Because of its importance, he asked Judge Nevin Dawson to hear that issue before the proposed extradition eligibility hearing this week. “Kim Dotcom’s business, Megaupload, has been destroyed really through simply taking the action”, he said.
The fact Dotcom and his associates had been unable to access funds to obtain U.S. legal and technical expertise was due to intentional delays imposed by the Crown, he said. The defense also plans to argue the hearing should be delayed.
Christine Gordon, acting for the Crown on behalf of the United States, said the issues raised by the men could be dealt with as part of the main hearing, or at a trial if it went ahead.
“The issue at this stage isn’t whether they will have a fair trial when they are extradited, but whether they will have a fair extradition hearing”, Ortmann’s barrister said.
The application also contained a suggestion the USA directed the New Zealand government to give Dotcom permanent residency so they knew where he was.
“This case is not just about me. This case is about how much control we allow U.S. corporations and the USA government to have over the Internet”, Dotcom said on Twitter before proceedings began.
THE IMPLICATIONS: The case highlights the tensions between content creators, like the Hollywood studios who make movies and expect royalties for their work, and Internet sites that collect, curate or distribute content that others have made.
Judge Dawson reserved his decision on the order of proceedings but what he won’t have to decide is whether or not Dotcom and his co-defendants are guilty.