He’s known as Kim Dotcom, and this former hacker-turned Internet entrepreneur lives in a lavish mansion on a vast estate outside Auckland, New Zealand. He leads a lifestyle that is part tech mogul, part Bond villain – and he says, in many ways, his life was inspired by the movies. “Some characters had private islands and super tankers converted into yachts…underwater homes…I got inspired by that,” he tells Bob Simon. But Kim thinks it is this outsized lifestyle that’s also fueling the U.S. government’s prosecution of him for large-scale copyright infringement.
Kim Dotcom denies the allegations that he got rich by allowing millions to illegally share copyrighted content on the web service he founded, Megaupload. He is a perfect Hollywood villain, he says, and that’s why they’ve decided to go after him. Simon’s visit with Kim Dotcom on his estate will be broadcast on 60 Minutes this Sunday, Jan. 5 at 7 p.m. ET/PT.
“Because of my flamboyant lifestyle, because of me being German, the way I am, I am the easiest person to sell as a villain,” says Dotcom, who changed his name from Kim Schmitz. “I’m the perfect target.”
U.S. authorities have charged Kim with copyright infringement, racketeering and money laundering, and are seeking his extradition from New Zealand. Dotcom maintains that he complied with the law and tried his best to remove copyrighted material from Megaupload. For now, Dotcom is stuck in New Zealand fighting extradition. He can’t leave the country, and says he’s trapped in a Golden Cage.
Megaupload was an Internet service that allowed users to store or share large files, like home movies or photo albums. It made its money by selling advertising and premium subscriptions. But according to federal authorities, Megaupload also allowed users to illegally share the hottest new films, or hit music, or books, videogames and TV programs -- including some CBS shows -- on a massive scale.
“Megaupload knowingly created and facilitated the distribution of stolen property,” says Former FBI Executive Assistant Director Shawn Henry. As for why the government is targeting the wealthy and flamboyant German, Henry says, “People aren’t investigated for the way they look…they’re investigated because there’s an allegation that they’re involved in illegal activity.”
Before authorities raided his mansion and shuttered his site, the U.S. government says Kim Dotcom cost the entertainment industry more than $500 million in lost revenue. Eriq Gardner, Senior Editor at The Hollywood Reporter says the film industry considered Kim a major threat. “This was the No. 1 pirate in their eyes,” says Gardner, who says Megaupload had a reported 50 million users a day. “To the entertainment industry, those are 50 million people who are not paying $12 for a DVD…$15 for a movie ticket,” he tells Simon.
But Kim insists that he’s not responsible for what other people chose to do on his site. “Do I have to go to jail for that? Because I didn’t do it. I didn’t upload these things to Megaupload,” says Kim.