Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak has come to the defense of MegaUpload founder Kim DotCom.
DotCom is accused by the United States of operating MegaUpload as a piracy enterprise and is fighting an attempt to extradite him from New Zealand to the U.S. (Here is an update about how DotCom's side has seized the momentum in the case.)
Last week, DotCom generated some press by posting a photo to the Web of himself and Wozniak standing together. But Wozniak had yet to comment about the photo or whether he believes DotCom is in the right.
In an exclusive e-mail interview yesterday with CNET, Wozniak made it clear that he fully supports DotCom.
"When crimes occur through the mail, you don't shut the post office down," Wozniak wrote. "When governments dream up charges of 'racketeering' for a typical IT guy who is just operating a file-sharing service, or accuse him of mail fraud because he said he had removed files [to alleged infringing content] when he'd just removed the links to them, this is evidence of how poorly thought out the attempt to extradite him is. Prosecutors are attempting to take advantage of loopholes. Too bad for the U.S. government that DotCom lives in New Zealand, which is better on human rights."
MegaUpload is a cloud-storage locker that DotCom says was completely legitimate and protected by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. U.S. officials say that DotCom encouraged users to store pirated videos, music, software and other media and then share them with others. He charged for premium services and generated advertising revenue.
The United States and New Zealand seized DotCom's assets and now are fighting attempts by MegaUpload to have enough money returned to pay legal fees. About that Wozniak said:
"How unfair that the United States will allow him living expenses out of his frozen assets but not give him any legal fees. The side with access to the funds spends millions on lawyers hoping the other side goes bankrupt and gives in. Shame on the system that permits this one-sided advantage. Kim is well enough liked and respected that his legal team is working without up-front payment."
According to Wozniak, DotCom was doing much to prevent piracy on his site by removing links to pirated content.
"I scratch my head wondering why the studios went after the guy doing more than can be imagined to remove the links the studios wanted removed," Wozniak wrote. "Heck, I use my iDisk (MobileMe) and dropbox to share files by sending links to friends. They might even be copyrighted materials. I might even send a song in an e-mail to my son, although if I think he'll keep it I will use the 'Buy gift' feature in iTunes. But there are so many legitimate uses to peer-to-peer file sharing and cloud storage."
Wozniak says he's no fan of piracy but that under the flag of copyright protection, a lot of damage can be done to innovation.
"Copyright violation is wrong," he said in the e-mail. "So is driving over the speed limit. But don't let that halt the progress of the digital age. I will note that Apple was the pioneer in finding the first good compromise [with the music industry over the legal distribution of MP3 files] with iTunes. Thank Heavens that this wasn't stopped at the beginning."
Wozniak closed by offering some advice to the entertainment industry.
"When you can't stop something like a steamroller," Wozniak wrote, "get out of the way."