A New Zealand judge ruled Wednesday that colorful Internet entrepreneur Kim Dotcom and three of his colleagues can be extradited to the United States to face criminal copyright charges. Dotcom's lawyers say they will appeal the decision. Judge Nevin Dawson's ruling came nearly four years after US authorities shut down Dotcom's file-sharing website Megaupload, which was once one of the Internet's most popular sites. Prosecutors say it raked in at least $175 million, mainly from people using it to illegally download movies. The US has charged the men with conspiracy to commit copyright infringement, racketeering, and money laundering. If found guilty, they could face decades in jail.
The case could have broader implications for Internet copyright rules. Dotcom's lawyer said earlier that if the US side prevails, websites from YouTube to Facebook would need to more carefully police their content. The case also raises questions about how far US jurisdiction extends in an age when the Internet has erased many traditional borders. Dotcom says he has never set foot in the US. New Zealand Justice Minister Amy Adams is required to sign off on any extraditions, and in a statement she said she would wait for the conclusion of any appeals before making a final decision. The men, including former Megaupload officers Mathias Ortmann, Bram van der Kolk, and Finn Batato, remain free on bail pending their appeals. "This is my weirdest Xmas ever," Dotcom tweeted before the ruling. (He brought his own chair to the extradition hearing.)