What do the world champion of Call of Duty, the founding of a political party and a private island in New Zealand have in common?
Mega-upload founder Kim Dotcom
The fascinating life story of the 2.01m tall Kim Dotcom begins on 21 January 1974 in a German harbor city named Kiel, where he was born as Kim Schmitz. As a teenager, he became famous as a hacker by claiming to have hacked into organizations including NASA, the Pentagon and the American Citibank. When Kim was twenty, he was arrested by the German police for putting stolen phone numbers in circulation and on sale. After having been imprisoned for a month, he was released only to be arrested shortly afterwards for committing computer fraud ten times and for data espionage. Kim was only a minor when he had committed these crimes, therefore, he was only convicted for 2 years of suspended imprisonment.
In 2001, Kim turned 27 and in the meantime he had made a name as an internet entrepreneur and investor. Kim invests 375.000 euros in the company letsbuyit.com and announced to the world that he is planning to invest another 50 million. As a result, the stock rises, Kim sells his shares and makes a 1.5 million euro profit. This little joke will cost him dearly later on. In 2003, Kim was extradited to Germany by Thailand, where he spent five months in prison awaiting his trial. Finally, Kim received a suspended prison sentence of 20 months and did not have to go to jail again.
After the verdict, Kim decided to move to Hong Kong. In 2005, he started a new chapter in his life there: the establishment of the ragingly successful website – MegaUpload. MegaUpload was a website that offered free hosting of information. People were able to share videos, music and other information online through the site . Kim got the idea for his website from one of his extravagant hobbies: driving in racecars. Whenever he was driving around with his friends, they would record exciting videos. Unfortunately, these videos could not be shared by e-mail because you could only upload to a certain amount of data. Therefore, Kim decided to create a website where sharing large data files would become a possibility.
2005 was also the year that Kim changes his surname from Schmitz to Dotcom. The idea being that people could find out about him by simply typing his name: kim.com. Kim.com led to a website dedicated to his lifestyle and his fight for the freedom on the internet as well as how the internet made him a fortune.
In 2010, Kim decided to request a residence permit in New Zealand. He received it despite his criminal record under an ‘investor plus’ status. This implied that Kim should invest a minimum of 10 million dollars in New Zealand, a promise which he has lived up to.
Once he arrived in New Zealand, Kim rented one of the most expensive houses in the country, an enormous villa located on a private island. He fills this island full with expensive fast cars which are provided with defiant license plates with texts such as ‘HACKER’ ‘MAFIA’ and ‘STONED’. On top of the cars, there is a helicopter on the island, a yacht and an enormous plastic giraffe.1 Kim has even made a YouTube video of his extravagant lifestyle called ‘The Good Life’,2 that is accessible to anyone who wants to see how he lives.3
By the end of 2011, Kim showed once again that he is a man of many talents. This time by becoming number one of the world in the most popular game of that moment: Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3. Under the name ‘MEGARACER’, he claimed the first place over 15 million other players.
In 2012, the tables were turned on Dotcom. He was accused of copyright infringement. The movies industry in Hollywood and other big companies were missing out on a lot of income, because their final products such as movies and videos were free to download through MegaUpload. In January, two complaints were lodged against Kim for copyright infringement and money laundering. Two weeks later, an armed attack was carried out on Dotcoms house by the New Zealand police force. There were 76 armed police officers and two helicopters present. Images of this incursion can be seen on kim.com,4 the security cameras on his island have recorded the entire assault. 17 million dollars worth of Kim’s properties were seized and all 64 of his bank accounts with a total worth of 175 million dollar were frozen.5 MegaUpload was put offline by the FBI and Kim was imprisoned only to be bailed out later.
After the incursion, a lengthy lawsuit with the United States against Kim Dotcom starts. The United States wants Kim to be extradited by New Zealand for extortion, money laundering and copyright infringement. According to the United States, the American movies industry has missed out on 500 million dollars due to MegaUpload. Kim himself argued that he was innocent, he stated that the only thing he did was to make it possible for people to share files, which would imply that he has not infringed copyrights.
‘the freedom of internet’
The lawsuit has been going on for 4 years already and Kim has been committing himself to ‘the freedom of internet’. A year after the attack, Kim founded Mega, a newer version of MegaUpload. Today Mega ranks as the 270th website of the world. In 2014, Kim founded the New Zealand political party ‘the internet party’,6 which fights for privacy, freedom of the internet and the reformations on the internet. However, the party gained zero seats during the national elections.
In the end of 2015, the final decision of the lawsuit was made, the judge decided that Kim and three other colleagues were allowed to be extradited to the United States.7 Kim and his colleagues lodged an appeal against this decision which means that the adventurous life of Kim Dotcom has yet to come to an end.8
1. Quotenet, ‘16 bizarre feiten over MegaUpload baasje Kim Dotcom, Quotenet 24 februari 2014, geraadpleegd op https://www.quotenet.nl/Nieuws/16-bizarre-feiten-over-MegaUpload-baasje-Kim-Dotcom-174287
2. MrKimDotcom, ‘Kim Dotcom – Good life’, gepubliceerd op 19 januari 2016, geraadpleegd op https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oDiili2Gs-0
3. TGMonlinemedia, ‘Kim Dotcom maakt duurste videoclip ooit’, TGMonlinemedia 2014, geraadpleegd op https://tmgonlinemedia.nl/consent/consent/?return=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.metronieuws.nl%2Fxl%2Fraar%2F2016%2F01%2Fmieters-kim-dotcom-maakt-duurste-videoclip- ooit&clienttime=1469095168704&version=0&detect=true
4. https://kim.com/ <kim.com>
5. NU.nl, ‘Kim Dotcom wil 67 miljoen dollar terugkrijgen van rechter’, NU 26 maart 2016, geraadpleegd op https://www.nu.nl/internet/4237171/kim-dotcom-wil-67-miljoen-dollar-terugkrijgen-van-rechter.html
6. Breaking News, ‘Kim Dotcom Updating In Real-Time’, Breakingnews 2016, geraadpleegd op https://www.breakingnews.com/topic/kim-dotcom/
7. H. De Zeeuw, ‘Internetondernemer Dotcom mag worden uitgeleverd aan VS, NRC 23 december 2015, geraadpleegd op https://www.nrc.nl/nieuws/2015/12/23/internetondernemer-kim-dotcom-mag-worden-uitgeleverd-aan-vs-a1410589
8. Redactie Volkskrant, ‘Kim Dotcom, man achter Megaupload, wordt uitgeleverd aan VS’, Volkskrant 23 december 2015, geraadpleegd op https://www.volkskrant.nl/buitenland/kim-dotcom-man-achter-megaupload-wordt-uitgeleverd-aan-vs~a4213059/