Here’s an exclusive first look at Kim Dotcom: Caught in the Web, a documentary about one of the world’s most notorious Internet entrepreneurs (or pirates. depending on your point of view). The film about the Germany-born, New Zealand-based founder of MegaUpload will have its world premiere March 13 at SXSW and is described as “a film about ownership, privacy and piracy in the digital age.”
According to the U.S. Justice Department, MegaUpload’s file-sharing business cost copyright owners, including the Hollywood studios, some $500 million, with the site making at least $175M in profits during its run, largely from users illegally downloading movies, songs and TV shows. The 5-year-old case has become a major test of international copyright law, one of the fastest-evolving and most contentious legal issues of the digital age.
Dotcom – born Kim Schmitz and a permanent resident of New Zealand, where he lives with his family in palatial splendor surrounded by high-tech security – has been fighting extradition to the U.S. He faces prosecution on charges ranging from copyright infringement to embezzlement, conspiracy, fraud and money laundering. In late February, a New Zealand judge ruled that Dotcom could be extradited on the criminal charges. An earlier ruling dismissed the copyright infringement aspects of the case, a significant blow to the studios. Nevertheless, if convicted on the criminal charges, Dotcom and three associates also charged face hard time.
Dotcom, like hackers before him, has argued that what subscribers to his site do with the content is not his business and that he shouldn’t be held accountable. At its height in 2005, MegaUpload claimed 50 million daily users. In 2012 the Department of Justice shut down and seized control of the site and filed charges against Dotcom, who blamed “the copyright cartel in Hollywood trying to take control and monopolies of all human thought,” per news accounts.
Three years in the making, Caught in the Web chronicles the case and goes deep into Dotcom’s lavish lifestyle in the South Pacific, where “he rented the largest mansion he could find, throwing parties, raves, concerts – and gifting a $500,000 fireworks display to his chosen city of Auckland,” according to the film’s director, Annie Goldson, and producer, Alexander Behse.
“In January 2012, 70 heavily armed and helmeted New Zealand police stormed Dotcom’s mansion, at the FBI’s behest, arresting the man and his three ‘coders’ or co-conspirators on a range of serious charges relating to alleged copyright infringement by MegaUpload,” they added. “Now out on bail, Dotcom continues to make multiple waves, gathering around him an unexpected and contradictory group of bedfellows. Is he a bit-stream pirate or a folk hero? An underdog taking on the U.S. superpower or a thief? A wealthy businessman or a freedom-loving anarchist? Most likely all these things at once.”
XYZ Films is handling sales at SXSW.