Sunday May 07, 2017

Fraudster or Folk Hero? The story of Kim Dotcom

Kim Dotcom, born Kim Schmitz, at the age of 21.

Kim Dotcom, born Kim Schmitz, at the age of 21. (Ines Schramm BFF)

Listen 13:21

Digital piracy, government spying, mega mansions, private jets, early-morning police raids and extradition threats. It's all part of the larger-than-life story of Kim Dotcom, known as "the most wanted man on the internet."

Veteran New Zealand filmmaker Annie Goldson explores the paradoxes of the tech eccentric in her new documentary, Kim Dotcom: Caught in the Web, which just had its Canadian premiere at Hot Docs.

Kim Dotcom 2

Kim Dotcom hams it up with a handcuff sculpture. (Mathias Ortmann)

So who is Kim Dotcom?

"I would call him a tech entrepreneur," Annie says. Formerly known as Kim Schmitz, Kim Dotcom is the German-born founder of one of the world's most infamous file sharing sites, MegaUpload, which started in 2005.

"Because it was an early platform, I think a lot of people decided to use it to share both legal and copyrighted files, so that's why it  took off," she explains.

However, Hollywood and record companies saw the site as a threat to  their business. "It was definitely copyright war," Annie says. "This is not to say that Kim was uploading materials; that's the nature of the legal and political case."

Annie Goldson

Filmmaker Annie Goldson.

In 2012, Kim Dotcom was arrested in a military-style raid on his mansion in New Zealand. Megaupload was shut down by the FBI. The heart of Kim's case is about ownership, privacy and piracy in the digital age, Annie says.

"On the one hand, you could say it's just a neutral platform. On the other hand, people are claiming there were incentives in place to encourage piracy."

So, is Kim Dotcom pirating scofflaw or folk hero? "I go for both," Annie says. "When you look at entrepreneurship historically, it seems quite often that people have to work in that grey area to innovate."

Kim Dotcom is currently in New Zealand and still faces extradition. "The case is dragging on," says Annie. "I would say it will be several years of court battles before the outcome is decided."