Megaupload warrants ruled illegal by New Zealand court


Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom talks to members of the media as he leaves the High Court in Auckland in this February 29, 2012 file photograph. Search warrants used when 70 police raided Dotcom's New Zealand mansion were illegal, a New Zealand court ruled on June 28, 2012. German national Dotcom, also known as Kim Schmitz, was one of four men arrested in January as part of an investigation of his Megaupload.com website led by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation. (STRINGER/NEW ZEALAND/REUTERS)
June 28, 2012

A court in New Zealand has ruled that the search warrants used by New Zealand police when they raided the home of Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom were invalid.

Reuters reported that a High Court judge said the search warrants were “too vague” and “did not adequately describe the offences to which they related.” The judge also ruled that the FBI acted unlawfully when it took copies of data from Dotcom’s computer offshore.

New Zealand police officers raided the home of the Megaupload executive in January, when the U.S. Justice Department shut down the file-sharing site on charges that it facilitated online piracy, The Washington Post reported. The case made a splash not only because police also seized valuables and other property from Dotcom, but also because the story happened at the same time that Congress was debating two controversial anti-piracy bills.

Before the site was shut down, it claimed to have 1 billion users — with 50 million daily users — and, at one time, was believed to be the Internet’s 13th most-popular Web site.

New Zealand police told Reuters that they were considering the judgment and trying to “determine what further action might be required.

Investigators claim that Megaupload has made more than $175 million in subscription fees and online ads from the illegally uploaded material.

The Justice Department declined to comment on the New Zealand judge’s ruling.

Lawyers for Megaupload told The Post in January that U.S. federal authorities did not have a right to indict the Hong Kong-based company, and that the company had never been contacted by the FBI before the raid.

Dotcom is on bail in New Zealand, and U.S. officials are seeking to extradite him to face charges of money laundering and copyright theft.

In a recent interview with the Associated Press, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak said that the case against Dotcom was “hokey” and that he believes the U.S. argument is based on “thin ground.”

“It’s just kind of ridiculous what they did to his life,” Wozniak said. “An awful lot of Kiwis support him. The U.S. government is on thin ground.”

He compared shutting down the Megaupload site on piracy grounds to shutting down a highway to stop speeding.

For users who had legitimate files on the site, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has been working to grant them access to their data. On Friday, the organization will go before in a hearing in Alexandria to ask the Eastern District Court of Virginia to create a way for users to reclaim their data.

Related stories:

AP Interview: Apple’s Steve Wozniak and Megaupload’s Kim Dotcom slam US piracy case

Megaupload founder released on bail

Carpathia, EFF start Megaupload data retrieval project

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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