Friday, February 22, 2013

Kim Dotcom - PR Puppetmaster or Defender of the Internet?

With the launch of it seems larger-than-life internet mastermind, German Kim Dotcom is well on his way to rebuilding his empire (but it has not gone down without a few hiccups).

Kim Dotcom sprang to fame on 20 January 2012 when his Coatesville mansion, north of Auckland, New Zealand was dramatically raided by 70 New Zealand Police officers in cooperation with the FBI.

The source of the drama was Kim Dotcom’s ‘MegaUpload’, a file-sharing website that had owners and associates indicted in the US weeks earlier for criminal copyright infringements, racketeering and money laundering. The US Department of Justice declared the entire operation a “mega conspiracy” and millions of dollars of assets we confiscated during the raids.

A media storm ensued; questioning whether the FBI had any right to be operating in New Zealand; and why MegaUpload was being targets when hundreds, if not thousands, of far bigger file-sharing sites were allegedly “guilty” of the same charges.

Was Kim Dotcom targeted for his outspoken nature and lavish personal life to be the global scapegoat for internet copyright infringement?

If so, it seems Dotcom's captors bit off more than they could chew, with hashtag #FreeDotcom trending on Twitter in record time after his arrest.

Fast-forward one year and Dotcom threw a lavish party at his Coatesville mansion to celebrate the launch of a “Privacy Company” that’s “BIGGER. BETTER. FASTER. STRONGER. SAFER.” – the encrypted file-sharing site, Mega. It also has the added benefit of being so private that even Mega don’t know what their users are uploading – a very handy ‘out’ for when the content of Mega undoubtedly comes under fire again.

When it comes to Dotcom, the colourful events that surround him and his virality with both traditional and social media, it begs the question of is this the chicken or the egg?

Is Dotcom simply a charismatic personality who attracts support and attention? Or is he the puppetmaster behind a strategic PR campaign?

He was making music while imprisoned and released video interviews that give an appealing logic for his case. In the wake of John Banks' alleged political skulduggery, Dotcom fed the fire with a YouTube song titled 'Amnesia'. He even released a song appeal to President Obama demanding he reform internet piracy laws.

In Dotcom’s words “the war for the internet has begun” and his name is now synonymous with internet user rights - a hot-button global issue that grows more and more complex with every IT innovation.

The ‘Free Kim Dotcom’ Facebook Page has almost 10, 000 fans and has evolved into a news aggregator for controversial arrests surrounding IT infringements. It has followed the arrest of Barrett Brown, who now faces 100 years imprisonment for his involvement with the faceless ‘hacktivist’ collective, Anonymous. It also delves into the tragic suicide of Aaron Swartz, a talented computer programmer and self-proclaimed applied sociologist. He ended his life after an exhausting two year court battle for an indictment of wire and computer fraud.

While Dotcom often handles his accusations with humour and wit, he is at the heart of a very serious issue and the outcome of his case could set the precedent for future court battles. Is he truly passionate about his cause, or is he simply ‘saying all the right things’ to turn the tide in his favour?

Kim Dotcom’s extradition hearing is scheduled to begin 14 August 2013 and we will be waiting with bated breath to see which way the jury swings.

By Bridget Bisset

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