updated 09:55 pm EST, Tue February 18, 2014
New Zealand appeals court ruling opens door to further extradition hearings
At the request of the US Department of Justice, a New Zealand court has ruled that the original Megaupload search warrant, executed on founder Kim Dotcom, was legal -- overturning a lower court's ruling holding it inadmissable. The previous ruling found the warrants vague, and that the poor construction of the warrant caused the seizure of materials seemingly irrelevant to the charges against the Internet mogul.
Megaupload as a corporate entity was best known for its now-shuttered websites, including the file hosting service megaupload.com. The domain names for the entire company were seized, and the sites associated with Megaupload were shut down by the United States Department of Justice on January 19, 2012, following the indictment and arrests of Dotcom and other owners for allegedly operating as an organization dedicated to copyright infringement.
"A reasonable reader in the position of the recipients of the search warrants would have understood what they related to," the New Zealand appeal court judges said in its statement explaining the validation of the warrants. "There was no disconnect between what there were reasonable grounds to believe might be at the properties and what the warrant authorized the police to take."
Dotcom's defense argues that the file locker service was just a file repository for others, and no organized promotion of copyright infringement was made, regardless of data source. The US Department of Justice disagreees, claiming that Dotcom and Megaupload paid bounties to users who uploaded popular content, and deleted infrequently-accessed files.
The news wasn't all bad for Dotcom's defense team -- the court upheld a previous ruling that maintained that New Zealand prodecutors were not authorized to send duplicates of electronic evidence to US prosecutors, which could present obstacles or even halt any US prosecution. The DOJ is seeking extradition of Dotcom to face charges in the US based in part on that illegally-obtained evidence.