Mathias Ortmann, the co-founder of Megaupload, has been granted bail by a judge in New Zealand following his arrest almost a month ago. Mathias Ortmann was expected to be freed following a hearing on January 26, but it was delayed when the authorities collected information on his finances and found they fell short of Ortmann’s own estimations.
According to the FBI, Ortmann made approximately $14.5 million from Megaupload between 2005 and 2010, as well as an additional $3 million in 2011.
His accounts, on the other hand, revealed a grand total of $20.2 million, a total of $3.5 million more than the estimate given.
Kim Dotcom, founder of Megaupload, is the only one who remains behind bars after the raids in January, although he is due to appear in court next week. Ortmann, who was released yesterday, will now join Bram van der Kolk and Finn Batato at the former’s Auckland home. Bail conditions for all three are strict and include such restrictions as a complete ban on Internet access.
Detective Superintendent Mike Pannett, who reportedly monitored events from the FBI’s command center, has been quoted as saying:
“Feedback on the New Zealand operation has been extremely positive from our international law enforcement partners including the FBI and the US Department of Justice.”
It has also been revealed that U.S. authorities intend to rely on a United Nations treaty aimed at combating international organized crime to extradite all the NZ-based members of the so-called “Mega Conspiracy” to the U.S. Under New Zealand’s Copyright Act, distributing an infringing work carries a five-year maximum sentence, with crimes having to carry a four-year prison sentence to be deemed extraditable. Due to the ground-breaking nature of the case, the extradition battle for the defendants is expected to be prolonged and complex, possibly even going all the way to the Supreme Court.
Analysis: I may be the only one, but it generally rubs me the wrong way about how this was handled. The thing is, I would expect a “congratulations” from one country to another if a mass murderer or a terrorist had been brought into custody, not for the act of sending in dozens of armed police officers to take down essentially a few guys who spend their lives running a file sharing web site.
I would guess that the amount of money that has gone into the January raids is much more than one would first think, with even more money being poured into the cause over the next year or possibly even longer. With so many other things going on in the world that some would consider to be more pressing matters, it seems counter productive, and somewhat pointless, to focus on a few people that run a web site.
More importantly, has file sharing, downloading, and piracy gone down because of this? No, not really. I, for one, don’t condone piracy: it’s a crime that should be punished, but what has this accomplished? To me, all that can be taken from this is the unnerving realization that bills like SOPA and PIPA may not have to pass for web sites like Megaupload to be taken down without warning.