Dotcom faces up to 90 years in prison if convicted

A strong motivation to appeal his extradition. PLUS: Judge highlights cash incentive payments to repeat infringers.

Judge Nevin Dawson's decision to extradite Kim Dotcom and his co-accused Mathias Ortmann, Bram van der Kolk and Finn Batato includes a summary of the maximum prison sentences facing the four on each charge if they are ultimately convicted in the US.

A quick summary of the list:

  • Charge One: Conspiracy to commit racketeering: 20 years
  • Charge Two: Conspiracy to commit copyright infringement: five years
  • Charge Three: Conspiracy to launder monetary instruments: 20 years
  • Charge Four: Criminal copyright infringement: five years
  • Charge Five through Eight: Criminal copyright infringement by electronic means: five years each (20 years)
  • Charges Nine through 13: Fraud by wire, and aiding and abetting fraud by wire: 20 years

If served consecutively, that means the big man would face up to 90 years behind bars – a strong motivation to appeal his extradition (as he has already said he will) and then apply for a Supreme Court review if he loses that appeal.

A fifth accused man, Megaupload programmer Andrus Nomm, agreed to voluntarily travel from Europe to the US, where he pleaded guilty to felony copyright infringement in February. He was sentenced to one year and one day in jail. His light sentence led Mr Rothken to speculate Mr Nomm had cut a deal with the US government to turn state's evidence.

Repeat infringers paid, intercepted conversations imply
Judge Dawson also highlighted intercepted Skype conversations in which Mr Dotcom and this co-accused repeatedly discuss cash rewards paid to Megaupload members who uploaded popular files. Mr van der Kolk raises concerns that some involve infringing material. "This time, I’ll ban the obvious cases. But we have to think about the rewards and its future."

The US Department of Justice alleges " Despite this conversation, members of the Mega Conspiracy continued to make reward payments to repeat infringers, who uploaded copyright infringing files, including “obvious cases.”

The payments – which undermine the Megaupload accuseds' argument they qualified for safe harbour, like other file sharing sites, by co-operating with take-down laws – are repeatedly described as the site's growth engine.

The telling Skype exchanges include:

On or about May 21, 2007, via Skype, ORTMANN said to NOMM, “but I have a feeling that Kim [DOTCOM] tolerates a certain amount of copyright violation.” NOMM responded, “yep but not too obvious ones.” ORTMANN then said, “since it helps initial growth,” “but we must not overdo it.”

The intercepted conversations also imply the accused are as worried about the amount of cash they're paying out as possible copyright infringement.

They also make reference to the fact some DVD movies are being split into multiple files for upload. The Megaupload crew's key concern appears to be that uploaders are trying to rort their system and claim more cash rewards. But a movie being split into multiple files is interesting in the context of Mr Dotcom's earlier comment to NBR that Megaupload's 100MB file limit (a sixth the total of a movie file) prevented piracy.

RAW DATA: The full judgment (PDF)

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