Thursday, January 24, 2013

You’re No Aaron Swartz! Kim Dotcom’s Sleazy Transformation Into Activist

Jan 23, 2013 - The Daily Beast

With the legal case against him unraveling, colorful Internet tycoon Kim Dotcom is back with a new site and a new agenda: convincing us he’s a free-speech martyr. Don’t buy it, writes Michael Moynihan.

Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom (C) smiles as he speaks during the launch of his new website at a press conference at his mansion in Auckland on January 20, 2013. (Michael Bradley/AFP/Getty)
Last January, the New Zealand police, heavily armed and acting in cooperation with the FBI, raided the sprawling mansion of German-born Internet entrepreneur Kim Dotcom. The founder of the now-shuttered file-sharing website, Dotcom was charged with racketeering, money laundering, and copyright infringement, which an American indictment estimated had cost the film industry $500 million in lost revenue.

The 300-plus pound Dotcom is the perfect villain, the very picture of mindless excess, an “Internet Dr. Evil” who was snatched from his “Bond villain lair” (according to the always-subtle Daily Mail). Every Dotcom-related news story is illustrated with photos of the overstuffed millionaire acting out his hip-hop music-video fantasy—the bikini-clad women, yachts, helicopters, cigars, and expensive cars (with vanity license plates one would expect from a teenager who just won the lottery: GUILTY, STONED, GOD, HACKER, EVIL, MAFIA).

Since his arrest, the case against Megaupload has partially unravelled, allowing Dotcom to focus on his transformation from greedy hacker to, in the judgment of The New York Times, “something of a cult hero.” Exactly one year since his arrest, Dotcom relaunched Megaupload as, a file-trading service featuring sophisticated encryption that, he claims, will immunize him against future legal challenges.

For all of its breathless references to a “Mega conspiracy,” the 72-page indictment against Megaupload upends Dotcom’s argument that the site was “never set up with the intent to be some kind of piracy”; emails between company executives rather baldly demonstrate that this was precisely the purpose of the service. And even without the electronic paper trail, it would require an exceptional degree of credulity to believe that the company was merely providing a convenient repository for cat videos and legally obtained music files.

In a new interview with The Guardian, Dotcom drew parallels between himself and Aaron Swartz, the open Internet activist who committed suicide earlier this month, galvanizing his legion of online supporters. “All I can say,” Dotcom said, “is that I see similarities in the way we have been prosecuted.” It’s an odd comparison. The ascetic Swartz, who never attempted to cash in on the information he “liberated,” was motivated by ideology, not the accumulation of wealth.

Full article at The Daily Beast

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