AUCKLAND, April 16 Megaupload founder Kim
Dotcom, facing extradition from New Zealand to the United States
to face online piracy charges, is cast variously as commercial
visionary, digital martyr, online freedom campaigner, swindler
Below is a timeline of events involving the internet tycoon
from his arrest in 2012.
January 2012 - Around 70 New Zealand police, some armed,
raid Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom's mansion outside Auckland,
acting on a request from the U.S. Federal Bureau of
Dotcom and his colleagues Finn Batato, Mathias Ortmann and
Bram van der Kolk are served extradition and search warrants,
arrested, and taken into custody. As operators of the website,
they are charged with online piracy, fraud and money laundering,
and their computers and files are seized. Megaupload is closed
down. The raid occurs on the same day U.S. lawmakers axe
anti-piracy legislation following heavy public opposition.
February 2012 - Dotcom is released on bail while he awaits a
hearing to fight against extradition to the United States, but
his movements are restricted and he is prohibited from leaving
New Zealand. His bail conditions are eventually relaxed to allow
him free movement within the country, while the millionaire is
given some access to his frozen funds to pay his legal team and
September 2012 - New Zealand's prime minister admits that
the country's spy agency illegally carried out surveillance on
Dotcom, a resident of the country, despite a law which prohibits
monitoring citizens and residents.
January 2013 - Dotcom launches a new online file storage
site, Mega.co.nz, whose encryption system is designed to offer
water-tight privacy protection of user files.
March 2013 - A New Zealand court rules that Dotcom has the
right to sue the government spy agency for illegal surveillance.
January 2014 - Dotcom soft launches online music service
Baboom, which enables artists to sell songs directly to fans
while keeping the bulk of the proceeds. So far, the site
features one album, Dotcom's "Good Times". An official launch is
planned for later this year.
February 2014 - After a series of appeals, a New Zealand
court rules that the search warrant used in Dotcom's arrest was
legal. The ruling benefits U.S. prosecutors in their attempt to
extradite Dotcom and his colleagues, while posing a possible
obstacle to Dotcom's damages suit. Dotcom's lawyers say they
March 2014 - Dealing another blow to Dotcom's defence, the
Supreme Court rules that U.S. prosecutors are not required to
disclose evidence at Dotcom's extradition hearing, scheduled for
July after a number of postponements.
Dotcom's online file storage site Mega Ltd announces it is
planning a $180 million listing on New Zealand's stock exchange
through a reverse takeover of a local investment shell company.
"Indicted. Raided. On Bail. All assets frozen without trial. But
we don't cry ourselves to sleep. We built #Mega from 0 into a
$210m company," he tweets.
Dotcom launches the Internet Party, which will contest New
Zealand general elections in September from a platform promoting
online privacy rights and reforms to copyright laws. Dotcom has
the right to vote in New Zealand but cannot stand for election
until he becomes a citizen.
April 2014 - Major U.S. film studios including Twentieth
Century Fox Film Corp., Disney Enterprises Inc. and Paramount
Pictures file a civil suit for copyright infringement against
Megaupload, Dotcom and his colleagues. They charge that the site
infringed the copyrights for films including "Avatar", "Forrest
Gump" and "Transformers".
The same week, Dotcom and his colleagues are slapped with
another copyright infringement suit by music labels Warner Music
Group Corp., UMG Recordings Inc., Sony Music
Entertainment and Capitol Records.
(Reporting by Naomi Tajitsu; Editing by Mike Collett-White)