Fran O'Sullivan on business

Business analysis and comment from Herald columnist Fran O'Sullivan

Fran O'Sullivan: Content creators can have a beef with Dotcom

Bodyguard Wayne Tempero was the first of five security staff to quit Dotcom's employ.
Bodyguard Wayne Tempero was the first of five security staff to quit Dotcom's employ.

Lawyer: "Are you the Fran O'Sullivan that tweets about Kim Dotcom? We've been wondering in here."

I've tweeted only a handful of times about this would-be political Svengali who has yet to mesmerise enough New Zealanders to pose a real election threat to John Key's Government.

But I found it rather amusing that the lawyers for this rather thin-skinned German national were monitoring his Twitter feed.

Surely a celebrity with 350,000 followers isn't going to get upset over some minor pin-pricking of his ego? Or is Dotcom so wedded to his carefully crafted PR image and fawning reports of his activities that he can't stand even some slight questioning of his motives?

It's been well known for months that Dotcom has financial issues, many clearly resulting from the court-imposed constraints on his ability to use his assets while the extradition case plays out.

This week Herald columnist Rachel Glucina winkled out the fact that bodyguard Wayne Tempero left Dotcom's employ last October and now four more security men have walked off. Glucina has also had a good run of scoops about the steady parade of political leaders paying obeisance to this character.

The court constraints have hampered his lifestyle. But the judge has allowed him a generous amount for expenses.

But personally I find it rather incongruous that he still lives a lavish lifestyle, including riding around in black helicopters and funding fireworks displays, to engender public goodwill towards himself.

Yet there is not so much left to splash on staff.

So, when Dotcom went down to the luxurious Huka Lodge and tweeted, "The view from my bedroom right now. Listening to the river & birds while thinking about the future."

I asked: "Paying the bill?"

It's a reasonable question. And a question that is critical to the court action US authorities have taken.

To my mind Dotcom is ...

Brilliant. Colourful. Great copy. A two-fisted seeker of truth out to bash up big governments. You get the drift.

Along the way I have tweaked him over the allegation that he is a victim of Hollywood.

I don't buy that.

Fundamentally - as a content producer myself - I line up with those who want to get paid for their efforts.

And copyright protection is integral to that.

I would prefer that business people (well, actually in this case a man who is also a convicted commercial criminal) do ensure the bill is paid for the work that content providers produce. That is journalists like myself, or musicians, or actors.

You see, our jobs are dependent on being paid.

Far too many of us have woken up too late to discover the "freedom" of the internet has resulted in a swathe of our jobs being slashed. Why should people pay for something they can get free? And we don't.

So, it is critical to our livelihoods that mechanisms such as paywalls are erected to stop us being reduced to unpaid serfs while people like Dotcom become multimillionaires. And that copyright infringers and their enablers are policed.

So, I am annoyed that he does not want to play ball with authorities who want to ensure the content providers (aka Hollywood investors and others) do get paid for their work.

Megaupload was a great business for Dotcom. But when his clientele freely avails itself of content which others have sweated blood to create, I have to ask what's so wrong with requiring him to police his network more efficiently and turn in those who are thieving others' work.

It's not as if his business is the only electronically networked platform where owners are required to play ball with regulators and legal authorities. Banks have to turn in customers suspected of money laundering by reporting suspicious transactions. Why is it such a big deal for Dotcom to follow suit?

The fundamental problem is if that got out Dotcom's platform would not be so attractive to those who want to see both freedom of the internet remain and plunder others' intellectual property.

So Dotcom is against the US. Against Barack Obama. Against Hollywood. Against John Key.

But don't forget that while he wages his public relations war for our hearts and minds, launches political parties, plays with our democracy - at the end of the day it's our wallets that count. Not his.

- NZ Herald

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