Monday, February 20, 2017

The Dotcom extradition decision

The High Court has ruled that Kim Dotcom can be extradited to the USA. But not for copyright infringement. Instead, he'll be extradited for conspiracy and money laundering:

After five months of deliberation, Gilbert found that Dotcom remained eligible for extradition to the US - but not on copyright charges.

The judge found in favour of arguments put by Dotcom's legal team, led by Ron Mansfield, that there was no equivalent "copyright" crime in New Zealand that would activate the extradition treaty.

However, the ruling also saw Justice Gilbert finding in favour of the US argument that Dotcom - and his three co-accused - could be extradited because it was at essence a "fraud" case and there was such a crime in the extradition treaty.

Except that what the US is calling "fraud" relies fundamentally on the idea that Dotcom's copyright infringement was criminal (likewise, "money laundering" requires that the money being laundered be criminally obtained). So we have a situation where a man can't be extradited for one "offence", because its not illegal here, but can be extradited for subsidiary offences which depend on the illegality of the first. Which doesn't really make sense. He could never be charged with those things in New Zealand, so why are we extraditing on them?

And it raises an obvious question: if we can't extradite on copyright infringement, will we require the US to drop those charges before extradition? If not, then isn't what is forbidden in law effectively allowed in practice, provided a foreign state can find another charge to stick on the docket?

The judgement is being appealed, of course. So hopefully we'll get some more clarity on this. Meanwhile, given the US government's role as the enforcement arm of the copyright mafia, I think its time we revisited our extradition laws, to make it clear that we will not under any circumstances extradite for such pretend "crimes". If Hollywood thinks Dotcom cost them money, they can sue. But if its not an offence in New Zealand law, our courts shouldn't collude in allowing a foreign state to jail a New Zealand citizen resident.

Correction: Kim Dotcom is an NZ resident, not a citizen.