Civil lawsuits launched against Dotcom

The first civil lawsuits have been filed against Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

It said music company Microhits, which owns rights to songs by Billy Holiday and Frank Sinatra, and Valcom, which owns rights to shows featuring Denzel Washington and Jackie Chan, had filed a complaint in a court in Virginia. They are suing Dotcom for an unspecified sum, saying Megaupload's service was used to "disseminate unauthorised copies of copyrighted works".

The prosecution is less ambitious than the criminal prosecution mounted against Dotcom by the United States Justice Department.

Dotcom is on bail in Auckland, awaiting an extradition hearing after US authorities alleged his file-sharing website Megaupload was guilty of internet piracy worth $US500 million. He denies the allegations.

Dotcom's assets were seized and frozen after raids on his property in January, though the courts recently granted him a $60,000 a month living allowance. Last week his wife gave birth to twins.

Auckland lawyer Rick Shera said the Justice Department allegations were essentially a civil matter masquerading as a criminal case.

However, The Hollywood Reporter said it was not clear how the plaintiffs would collect any damages, given Megaupload's assets have been seized and frozen.

InternetNZ chief executive Vikram Kumar gave Dotcom a roughly even chance of getting off any criminal charges.

The Computer Society yesterday organised a breakfast in Wellington at which Kumar, Shera and Auckland Law School academic Jane Kelsey chewed over the Megaupload saga in front of an audience that was generally sympathetic to Dotcom.

Kumar said InternetNZ occasionally used similar "cyberlocker" services to share files with members and it was only chance that it had not used Megaupload, which the US Justice Department has accused of being a massive criminal conspiracy.

Megaupload founder Dotcom told website TorrentFreak that his service was used by nearly 16,000 US soldiers, for example, to share photos with friends and family while on active duty, and promised fireworks when his legal team responded to the criminal indictment against him.

Kumar said "legacy industries such as Hollywood" had typically written the law in the US and had got a "bloody nose" from public protests about intellectual property issues.

"Hollywood, the music industry and all the legacy industries are at the peak in terms of the support they get and for them there is only downside from the Megaupload case," he said. "They cannot afford to lose this case and yet the legal arguments make it more 50:50." 

The Dominion Post