It's been a while since we've heard from Kim Dotcom—unless you follow him on Twitter, where the alleged Internet piracy mastermind tweets multiple times a day about privacy, government surveillance, and anything else that might embarrass the politicians and business executives he disagrees with. He also uses the site to plug his latest projects, including a secure video-chat service called MegaChat and a peer-to-peer network called MegaNet that snoops can't easily monitor.
To dive deeper into the mind of Dotcom than what will fit into 140 characters, I recently flew to New Zealand for a wide-ranging interview at his mansion, where the Megaupload founder is currently under house arrest. Dotcom explained his views on copyright, paying artists, and why he won't give up his giant house. Here’s a portion of our conversation airing on Bloomberg Television's Studio 1.0.
You've been under house arrest. What are the rules now? Where can and can't you go?
Kim Dotcom: Well, I'm not allowed to leave the country. I have to report to the police twice a week that I'm still here.
You've said you're broke. Would you call yourself broke now?
We recently had a judgment from the court releasing $4.6 million for legal fees and living expenses. So at the moment, if that judgment is not appealed, financially, I'm in a better position now than I was a couple of weeks ago.
Have you ever thought about moving into a cheaper place?
It's kind of my last stand—fighting for my castle, for my home. I'm not going to fold over, you know? I'm going to fight back.
Do you believe in copyright?
I believe in copyright, but I don't believe in copyright extremism. Extremism is if you are a Hollywood studio, and you release your content in one country first—in the United States—and then roll it out over a couple of months in other countries around the world, and expect the Internet community in all these different countries to wait for the release. They have just launched Netflix here in New Zealand. The catalog of content that you can download here is roughly 10 percent of what they offer in the United States. That is completely unfair. It's ridiculous. And because people don't get that access, they are looking for the stuff elsewhere. So it's a problem created by the content creators. I'm not responsible for that. If they would have an offering that has all content globally available for a fair price on any device, piracy would shrink into insignificance, but they're not doing it.
But if it's illegal, and you're not trying hard enough to take it down, or you don't take it down, doesn't that mean what you're doing is illegal, too?
No, I've tried everything. We worked with copyright holders, but we were also a small company. We were just a small company based in Hong Kong. We didn't catch up yet with the latest technologies, and we were not even given the opportunity to do that.
Do you think the artist who makes the song, the TV show, the movie, the video-game creator, do those people deserve to be paid?
So if those people deserve to be paid, yet people are accessing that content illegally, how do you find a balance?
But where is the problem? I don't see artists starving. They are making a lot of money.
Just because they're making money, does that mean it's fair that others should be able to access their content illegally?
No, I don't think that's what I'm trying to say. I just think everyone should look at it a bit more realistically. All these Hollywood moguls are living in mansions that are bigger than mine, you know? It's the greed that is dominating this debate. It's not like anyone goes starving, right? The movie industry makes more money, year after year after year. It's society that wants to have access to this content, but Hollywood doesn't make it available. I'm just a tiny piece in the middle of that, you know? I'm not responsible for that.
President Obama, in saying that piracy is a matter of national security, is saying the innovation and the creativity and the stuff that the American people create is our biggest asset. So why should we allow it to be stolen?
Yeah, but that argument doesn't include the question, “Why don't we make this great product available to everyone in an easy format?” If Hollywood had some smart people working for them, they would probably have the biggest Internet company on the planet.
Explain to me how this great Internet company out of Hollywood would work.
Well, it's quite simple. If you have a content platform, let's say, that's owned by all these different studios combined, and they will make their product available—the entire catalog, everything—at a fixed monthly fee, you know, for everyone to access around the world, working on every device, they would have the biggest Internet success in history.
Watch Chang’s full interview with Dotcom on Bloomberg TV's Studio 1.0 on Thursday, May 14 at 7:30 p.m. ET or stream it at bloomberg.com/tv.