Hamish Fletcher

Hamish Fletcher is a business reporter for the NZ Herald

US 'the enemy' says Dotcom judge

Kim Dotcom (left) leaves court earlier this year. Judge David Harvey, who has heard parts of the case, last week referred to the USA as the enemy in new trade talks. Photo / Sarah Ivey
Kim Dotcom (left) leaves court earlier this year. Judge David Harvey, who has heard parts of the case, last week referred to the USA as the enemy in new trade talks. Photo / Sarah Ivey

The judge due to hear Kim Dotcom's extradition case has referred to the United States as "the enemy" in a discussion about copyright law.

District Court Judge David Harvey has heard parts of the case against the Megaupload founder, who was arrested with three colleagues in January after a request from the United States. The FBI has accused Dotcom and others working at Megaupload website of the world's biggest case of criminal copyright violation.

Judge Harvey is not due to hear the internet mogul's extradition case until next year but made his views on copyright known during the launch of the "Fair Deal" campaign last week.

The campaign is opposing any changes to New Zealand's copyright laws that may form part of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement.

The TPP trade deal is currently being negotiated and the 13th round of talks are finishing up.

The negotiations are secret but it is known that the United States entertainment industry is pushing for stronger copyright provisions among the 11 countries in the Asia-Pacific region negotiating the deal.

When talking about how the TPP would affect copyright in New Zealand, Harvey said it could stop the practice of hacking around DVD region codes.

These codes can mean movie players in New Zealand are unable to read DVDs from other parts of the world such as the United States.

It is legal in New Zealand to use methods to get around these regional codes and make the DVDs watchable but Judge Harvey said the TPP would change this.

"Under TPP and the American Digital Millennium copyright provisions you will not be able to do that, that will be prohibited... if you do you will be a criminal - that's what will happen. Even before the 2008 amendments it wasn't criminalised. There are all sorts of ways this whole thing is being ramped up and if I could use Russell [Brown's] tweet from earlier on: we have met the enemy and he is [the] U.S."

Judge Harvey's remark is a play on the line "we have met the enemy and he is us" by American cartoonist Walt Kelly.

The judge had used Kelly's quip while speaking at an internet conference earlier last week and it was promoted on Twitter by Public Address journalist Russell Brown.

Judge Harvey, who has served on the bench since 1989, would not comment when asked if these statements were appropriate given his involvement in Kim Dotcom's case.

Auckland University law professor Bill Hodge said the comments could be seen as "unhelpful".

However, without knowing the details of the TPP discussion or related copyright issues he was unable to say whether the comments were appropriate.

"To the extent that the North Shore District Court has some jurisdiction, it can be seen as probably an extra-judicial comment that isn't helpful.

"But on the other hand, it was part of a quasi-academic conference discussing developing areas of law. I think judges should be free to make comments, as long as it doesn't appear to show any predetermination with respect to the specific case in the court before them."

Crown Law, which is representing the FBI in the extradition case, would not comment on the issue.

- NZ Herald

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