Dotcom issues

blogs at Pundit:

If the FBI case is weak, that begs the question, why are the New Zealand Police continuing to pursue it?

Because it is not their role to decide if a case is weak. If a valid extradition request is received, the NZ Police are obliged to act on it, just as we expect the FBI to respond to extradition requests from NZ.

Whether a request results in extradition will be effectively decided by a New Zealand Judge (and rubber stamped by the Minister of Justice). It is a legal decision, not a political decision.

The NZ Judge does not decide if someone is guilty or not, just that the charges laid are ones that would also be crimes in NZ, and that there is a prima facie case to answer.

So the fate of Dotcom in a legal sense is a decision for Judges, not politicians. First a NZ Judge has to decide if he can be extradited, and then a US Judge (and possibly jury) will decide if he is guilty of the offences he has been charged with.

As I have said in the past, he may have run Megaupload in such a way that it stayed within the law. Again that is a decision for a judge (or jury to make). The US is not Albania. It has a robust court system, with guaranteed rights under the Bill of Rights.

If a NZ Judge finds that he should not be extradited, then good on him. And if he is extradited, and is found not guilty, then also good on him.

The New Zealand government better hope that Dotcom doesn’t get extradited and then win his case, because the damages owed will be in the millions. It was our police who shut down a multi-million global business. It’ll be New Zealand tax payers who pay the reparation.

This is not correct. NZ Police did not shut it down. The FBI did. NZ taxpayers are not responsible for reparation. What NZ taxpayers may be responsible for is mistakes made by the Police in his arrest, and that is (as it should be) being heard in court.

Now we turn to the politics, and that should be separate to the legal issues, but they get mixed up. National has the misfortune to be in Government when the charges were laid and extradition requested. Hence Dotcom blames them. If Labour had been in power, I suspect exactly the same would have occurred to him, and he would now be railing against the evil Labour Government and Helen Clark.

Dotcom is obviously not keen to face trial in the United States. He is trying to turn a legal issue into a political one. I don’t blame him for that. If I was in his shoes and with his money, I’d try to do exactly the same.  If you are a political party leader, then that make extradition a political issue, not a legal issue. You extradite alleged criminals, not politicians.

So whenever Dotcom does something in the political sphere, I ask a simple question. Would he be doing this, if he wasn’t facing extradition to the United States on these criminal charges?

My preference is for Dotcom to have his day in court (first NZ and then if extradited, the US). If he wins at either of these, then I’d welcome all his plans to invest in a new cable, promote more fibre, have encrypted file sharing etc. But again, would he be throwing parties for 25,000 people if he wasn’t facing extradition?

I am no fan of the way the Hollywood entertainment industry have tried to cripple the Internet and some of the laws they have tried to get countries to enact. In fact I have fought against them. But in terms of applying the law, that is a decision for courts, not politicians.

In terms of the political impact of the proposed party, writes in the Manawatu Standard:

Is ’s new “Internet Party”:

a) A new party geared towards internet- conversant millennials;

b) Another Left-wing party entering an already crowded field; or

c) Some new force poised to tap into massive disillusionment with politics-as-usual?

No matter what the party’s founders intend, the voters will come to their own conclusions. The answer will determine what impact (if any) the new party has on the electoral landscape.

The first possibility would be a potential threat to the National Government. More than a few libertarian-ish millennials vote National by default. The “ish” suffix is appropriate because these voters are not particularly ideological. They can abide neither Labour’s slavish political correctness nor the Marxian economics of the Greens. They do not have any particular love for National.

They do care about issues an internet-oriented party could capitalise on.

Take, for instance, the matter of geo-blocking. This occurs when media rights holders prevent access to pay-services by New Zealand addresses. The most obvious example is the popular service Netflix, which streams television and movies over the web for a pretty reasonable cost. Like many such services, it is closed to New Zealanders.

Geo-blocking is one of my pet hates. It is not something that NZ can do anything about, but eventually I believe it will die, and we will have one global market for content.

On the other hand, if the Internet Party is seen as just another anti- John Key party – along with Labour, the Greens, Mana and New Zealand First, then I think any threat to the Government will be negligible. Its existence could even help National in a tight election year.

The Greens are sounding rather hostile to the party, and Labour less than enthused. If even 2% of their supporters vote for it, and the vote is wasted, that may be enough to keep National in power. Intentions and impacts are not the same thing.

The final possibility is that the Internet Party could become a true protest party – absorbing the votes of the disenfranchised and generating new voters from among the increasing numbers of those who would otherwise not turn out.

This is the hope of at least some of Mr Dotcom’s Left-wing boosters. In a gushing write-up by socialist commentator Chris Trotter, for instance, the Internet Party was heralded as a potential parallel to Italy’s Five Star Movement, an ‘anti- politics’ party which rode a wave of voter disgust to a stunning electoral performance in that country’s elections last year.

But New Zealand is not Italy. Going into its last election, the latter country had been forced into austerity by a sovereign debt crisis. Things were so bad that, at the time, Italy was actually being governed by an unelected proconsul of the European Union. By contrast, our leaders have generally steered a good path through the recession and the economic forecast is now fairly sunny.

One can understand why the Government’s antagonists might be frustrated at the apparent immovability of the polls. If they are counting on some groundswell of disenchantment with New Zealand politics to wash John Key away, however, I think they do so at their peril.

It will be interesting to see the impact, if they ever get around to an actual launch, policies and candidates. I’ll probably like some of their policies. But there are policies I like (to varying degrees) in most political parties (except Mana probably).

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