Technology

Kim Dotcom's lawyer plays down Megaupload worker's guilty plea

Kim Dotcom Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Kim Dotcom faces an extradition hearing scheduled for four months time

Kim Dotcom's US lawyer has denied that a guilty plea by one of the Megaupload's former employees has major implications for his client's case.

Andrus Nomm was sentenced to a year in jail after pleading guilty on Friday to conspiracy to commit copyright infringement while working for the now defunct file-sharing site.

The US is currently trying to extradite Mr Dotcom, who founded Megaupload, from New Zealand to stand trial.

Mr Dotcom denies wrongdoing.

The US Department of Justice (DoJ) has alleged that Megaupload's staff had "operated websites that wilfully reproduced and distributed infringing copies of copyrighted works" over a period of five years, causing more than $400m (£260m) of harm to copyright owners.

Nomm - a 36-year-old Estonian citizen - agreed to this damages estimate as part of his plea, according to a press release from the DoJ. He had been living in the Netherlands before he travelled to Virginia to make the deal with the US authorities.

The DoJ added that Nomm had acknowledged that through his work as a computer programmer for Megaupload, he had become aware of copyright-infringing material being stored on its sites, including films and TV shows that had contained FBI anti-piracy warnings.

It said he had also admitted to having downloaded copyright-infringing files himself.

"This conviction is a significant step forward in the largest criminal copyright case in US history," said assistant attorney general Leslie Caldwell.

'Compassion and understanding'

Hong Kong-based Megaupload was one of the world's most visited "cyber locker" sites when its domain names and assets were seized in January 2012, at the request of the US authorities.

Image copyright Mega
Image caption Andrus Nomm worked as a programmer on Megaupload's file-sharing service

Mr Dotcom has long maintained that he had not encouraged users to upload pirated material, and has said he cannot be held responsible for what others had stored on his service.

At the end of last week Friday he tweeted: "I have nothing but compassion and understanding for Andrus Nomm and I hope he will soon be reunited with his son."

In an interview with Radio New Zealand, Mr Dotcom's lawyer attempted to play down the significance of the latest development.

"Mr Nomm [was] interested in just getting one year and being done with this, essentially [he] lost on procedure rather than merit," said Ira Rothken.

"It looks like a scripted guilty plea that was more of a Hollywood public relations stunt.

"Andrus Nomm was involved particularly in video streaming and... video streaming is never a copyright crime in the United States.

"The other points that were made during his plea bargain was that he claimed that no filtering was going on - but the failure to filter was at most a civil issue and not a criminal issue.

"And then he also said that Kim Dotcom evidently did not care about copyrights, not withstanding the robust notice and takedown policies of Megaupload. And the notion that someone does not care is also not a crime, it's not even a civil wrong."

Mr Dotcom and five other individuals face charges of conspiracy to commit racketeering, conspiracy to commit copyright infringement, conspiracy to commit money laundering and wire fraud.

An extradition hearing for Mr Dotcom and three of the other accused is scheduled to take place in Auckland in June.

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