Analysis: Genius move: Live-stream file-sharing chaos will play into Dotcom’s hands
Watch the live-stream on YouTube (20-minute delay).
I’m not a fan of Kim Dotcom. He’s a poor ambassador for the important debates we need to have around new media and copyright.
But I do take my hat off to him for his live-streaming jape.
The live-stream from his extradition appeal in the High Court will earn publicity, which of course he loves. But I think there's some alley-cat cunning in play here, too.
To quickly re-cap: Dotcom’s lawyer made a last-minute request to video proceedings with a feed to YouTube.
The US government, through Crown Law, objected. It said the livestream could carry material that migh be inadmissible in a trial in the US and could have a prejudicial effectg on jury selection.
This morning, Justice Murray Gilbert allowed it, as long as live comments on the stream were disabled, there was a 20-minute delay and the footage would be removed after the trial was finished.
Notably, a crew hired by Dotcom will take the footage, not a crew hired by the court.
The live-stream will begin tomorrow morning.
It will inevitably lead to content sharing chaos.
YouTube has no copy function but there are lots of apps that let you save a snippet of video – and then, of course, there’s the blunt approach of just pointing a camera at the screen.
Media organisations, bloggers and others will run portions of trial video on their sites, and others will copy those copies (and Dotcom is already on Twitter encouraging members of the “internet generation” to make "brilliant edits", validating the Crown's concern that footage cannot be just "sucked off YouTube"). Highlight clips will get sprayed around social media, and no one will be sure which servers are within or outside our borders.
When the eight-week extradition appeal hearing wraps up, there is zero chance that all of this video will be removed.
At that point, Dotcom will be able to say: “If a High Court judge can’t control video uploaded to a legal file sharing service, then why am I being vilified for a handful of infringing files on Megaupload?”
Dotcom and his lawyers have long argued that file sharing is a neutral technology. Like, say, the VHS in the 1990s or the cloud in the 2010s, it can be used for good or ill. Megaupload was sometimes used for piracy but you could say that about YouTube and other services (which are absolved from responsibility for casual copyright infringement under the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act), they say. Unauthorised trial video floating about on dozens of sites and file sharing services will gel with that argument quite nicely – and it will help him as he heads to the Supreme Court (the inevitable next phase of this multi-year wrangle, whichever side wins this High Court appeal).
But will it help him on the PR front, or substantially?
The US government, through Crown Law, maintains that intercepted Skype conversations prove Megaupload wasn’t just another file sharing site. It used cash incentives to reward members who uploaded popular content, some of which was copyright infringing (and unlike, say, YouTube which has at times benefited from ads around infringing material, it did not offer to share revenue with artists or rights holders). It claims that, contrary to their public statements, the Megaupload crew conspired to make infringing content readily discoverable. Dotcom and his co-defendants also face racketeering and money laundering charges.