Kim Dotcom's truly bizarre story retold in Caught in the Web

by Fiona Rae / 19 December, 2017
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Kim Dotcom: Caught in the Web. Photo/Getty Images

The colourful life of former teen hacker Kim Schmitz, better known as Kim Dotcom, provides fascinating fodder for a documentary that plays this week on TV.

When acclaimed film-maker Annie Goldson began following Kim Dotcom in 2012, she could hardly have guessed she would capture a series of events that would threaten John Key’s prime ministership and, as has been alleged, make it all the way to the White House.

Kim Dotcom: Caught in the Web (TVNZ 1, Wednesday, 8.30pm) is a detailed and absorbing feature documentary about the man formerly known as Kim Schmitz and his legal battles with the US Government. It’s also about copyright laws, our right to privacy and government overreach.

The documentary begins with the armed police raid on Dotcom’s Coatesville mansion in 2012, but quickly backtracks to Germany in the early 90s, when Schmitz was describing himself as a hacker: “hackers were wizards”.

During the 90s, he fell foul of the law several times. He was arrested in Thailand and deported to Germany to face embezzlement charges.

By 2003, he was making a fresh start in Hong Kong, which is where Megaupload was born. It was innovative, and it surged ahead with the rise of illegal music downloading via online services such as Napster and, more significantly for Dotcom, the pirating of movies.

Megaupload was created to allow large files to be easily sent over the internet, but the issue is whether it is responsible for users’ content. It became a place where movies were available for free, resulting in Dotcom becoming an enemy of the Motion Picture Association of America. Even President Barack Obama came under pressure, after MPAA head Chris Dodd threatened to withdraw campaign funding.

Tech reporter Greg Sandoval is in no doubt that Hollywood pressured the President. “You get in between America and its money and you’re going to have big problems.”

The impressive list of interviewees includes journalist Glenn Greenwald, musician Moby, internet and copyright expert Lawrence Lessig, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales and New Zealand investigative journalist David Fisher.

The story becomes really bizarre after Dotcom’s move here and the Coatesville raid, apparently at the behest of the FBI. He fought back, winning significant legal victories, highlighting the activities of the GCSB and the Five Eyes surveillance network and creating the Internet Party to fight the 2014 election.

A fascinating tale and, as Goldson told us in July, “an ongoing story, with international significance”.

This article was first published in the December 16, 2017 issue of the New Zealand Listener.

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