As hearing on Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom's extradition appeal opened in New Zealand on Monday (29 August), Dotcom's legal team argued that the proceedings should be allowed to be live-streamed on YouTube in order to ensure a fair hearing.
The hearing, at the New Zealand high court in Auckland, comes after the Auckland District Judge ruled in December 2015 that Dotcom could be extradited to the US to face money-laundering and copyright infringement charges over his immensely popular file-sharing website Megaupload, the NBR reported.
Ron Mansfield, Dotcom's lawyer, argued that the case raised "unprecedented issues of public and international interest". Mansfield argued that given the tremendous global interest in the high-profile case, conventional reporting may fall short of comprehensively covering all issues surrounding the case and could be "unbalanced".
Dotcom posted a series of tweets censuring the US government for blocking the live-stream request and updating his numerous followers on the proceedings. "US defends mass surveillance programmes with 'If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear' but opposes live streaming of my hearing," Dotcom wrote on Twitter. In another tweet, he claimed that the New Zealand press present at the hearing would not oppose live-streaming, adding that he hoped the "judge will support transparency".
"We hope the court finds in favour of livestreaming so the global community from Silicon Valley to Wellington, New Zealand, can access the courtroom in a case that can impact the entire internet community," Dotcom's lawyer Ira Rothken told Reuters.
A spokesperson for the New Zealand government prosecutors, representing the US government, refrained from commenting on the matter, adding that it was not appropriate to comment on an ongoing case.
New Zealand's Justice Murray Gilbert, presiding over the hearing, criticised Dotcom's last-minute bid to live-stream the six-week extradition hearing. However, he agreed to let the media discuss it before making a decision, indicating a possibility that the request may be granted. Mansfield said the video would have a 10-minute delay to ensure that sensitive information can be censored.
Dotcom and his colleagues' Mathias Ortmann, Bram van der Kolk and Finn Batato's legal team argued that the district court judge who presided over the previous extradition hearing displayed "extraordinary disinterest" in their arguments. "It's like ships passing in the night with no radar — the judge simply did not engage with the arguments in a meaningful way," said Grant Illingworth, Dotcom's colleagues' lawyer.
German-born Dotcom was arrested in 2012 in New Zealand. US authorities said Dotcom and his colleagues cost film studios and record companies over $500m and made over $175m from the now defunct Megaupload, by encouraging users to download and share copyright material like movies and TV shows.
Dotcom recently announced the return of a new and improved version of the file-sharing stie. The internet giant confirmed that Megaupload 2.0 would be launched on 20 January, 2015, to coincide with the fifth anniversary of the dramatic raid at his New Zealand home which saw his arrest and the seizure of the site.
A decision on whether the extradition hearing will be allowed to be live-streamed could be out as soon as 30 August.