If there are two things that Kim Dotcom does well, it is making money and manipulating public perception.
There is a somewhat uncritical view of Mr. Dotcom emerging as he executes a pretty successful charm offensive, primarily through a Twitter account which has amassed over 130000 followers.
From the ‘swim at Kims’ to the Campbell Live interview, Dotcom has demonstrated a guile which is hard to resist (with the possible exception of some jokes in very poor taste). But resist you should and separate his current legal trouble from his personality and past.
Let’s first get a few things straight: Kim Dotcom is almost certainly at the centre of a substantial international miscarriage of justice.
The United States Government appears to be exerting undue influence in New Zealand and on business conducted here, arguably at the behest of the powerful Hollywood lobby. That sovereignty is subject to the vagaries of business should be worrying for every New Zealander.
That isn’t at question; indeed, early trial outcomes support Dotcom’s assertions that he is being victimised. The term ‘witch hunt’ comes too readily to mind.
However, simply because his cause aligns with greater principles at play – specifically, internet freedom – does not mean he is your friend. Nor does it make him the big, lovable freedom fighter of the internet (replete with Che Guevara beret) as he would have you believe.
His past haunts him, both ancient history and recent events. Remember, he pretty much openly claimed to have paid money to John Banks for consideration. While Banks managed some spectacular tap-dancing to avoid serious sanction (through a combination of amnesia, a credulous John Key and pusillanimous law), a matter of principle is nevertheless established.
Dotcom is happy to throw his weight (both financial and apparently literally) around and to expect favours in exchange for payola.
The crux of the matter is that his cause is arguably not primarily about internet freedom, but rather about making lots of money for himself.
That is absolutely cool – but before championing his cause, it is perhaps perspicacious to bear in mind that it may be no more than mere coincidence that his case and that of internet freedom advocates is aligned.
Does this mean we don’t agree with internet freedom? Absolutely not; indeed, Dotcom makes very sound arguments for the necessity for new business models for content distribution (if you haven’t done so already, watch that Campbell Live interview).
And, ultimately, his present wrangle with the law boils down to something very, very simple, best expressed as a rhetorical question: Is, say, Telecom held liable when a crime is planned using its telephone systems? In exactly the same way, it should be pretty difficult to prove that Megaupload is responsible for what its users did with the service.
But none of that makes Kim your buddy. After all, he doesn’t follow anyone on Twitter – except for his arch-nemesis, Barack Obama.