The judge overseeing the MegaUpload case in New Zealand doesn't sound like a supporter of the U.S. government's attempts to strengthen international copyright law.
According to a report in the New Zealand Herald, the United States is attempting to require New Zealand and other countries to adopt tougher copyright restrictions as part of a trade agreement and this prompted the judge to call the U.S. government "the enemy."
The Herald raised the question whether Harvey's comments were appropriate for the judge presiding over the MegaUpload case to make. According to a legal expert there, making such comments could be seen by some as "unhelpful" but it was unclear whether they were inappropriate.
The U.S. claims DotCom and the other defendants operated MegaUpload as a criminal enterprise, encouraging users to store pirated video and other digital media in the service's lockers and then share them with people from all over the world. The case has generated worldwide attention and now the spotlight is being trained on one of the judges in the case.
New Zealand District Court Judge David Harvey made the comments last week as part of a campaign started by opponents of any agreement in the Trans Pacific Partnership that would change New Zealand copyright law. The Herald wrote that Harvey said this:
"Under TPP and the American Digital Millennium copyright provisions you will not be able to [hack around DVD region codes, which limit discs sold in one country from being played on DVD players in another country], that will be prohibited...if you do you will be a criminal -- that's what will happen. Even before the 2008 amendments it wasn't criminalized. There are all sorts of ways this whole thing is being ramped up and if I could use Russell [Brown's] tweet from earlier on: we have met the enemy and he is [the] U.S."
A representative for the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, the office that filed criminal charges against the online storage service and seven managers, including founder Kim DotCom, declined to comment. Ira Rothken, the Silicon Valley attorney leading MegaUpload's worldwide defense said too much is being made about the judge's statement.
"It appears to be from a scholarly discussion on global IP treaty issues," Rothken said, "made at a New Zealand Internet conference where he apparently garbled an old saying to indicate he disagreed with the US position on some nuanced issue that has nothing to do with the Kim Dotcom matter. No reasonable person listening to the speech in context would leave taking the word 'enemy' literally and broadly or think it has anything to do with this case."
MegaUpload has also heard favorable comments from the U.S. district judge overseeing the indictment. Judge Liam O'Grady wondered aloud in court during an April hearing whether the case against MegaUpload would ever go to trial.
Update 9:37 a.m. PT: To include comments from MegaUpload lawyer Ira Rothken.