Supreme Court Won't Review US Government Getting To Steal All Of Kim Dotcom's Stuff
from the that's-unfortunate dept
While the “main event” in the never-ending case of the US Justice Department against Kim Dotcom continues to grind its way ever so slowly through the wheels of justice, one element has basically concluded. And this was the part that should concern you even if you think that Kim Dotcom was completely guilty of criminal copyright infringement. The issue here is that as part of the arrest of Dotcom and his colleagues, the US “seized” many of his assets. Now, when the government seizes assets, it’s a temporary thing. They have a certain period of time to hold onto it. Afterwards, they either need to give those assets back or file a separate case to attempt to “forfeit” those items (i.e., keep them forever). Here’s where things get a little bizarre. Because Dotcom was fighting extradition in New Zealand, the “deadline” for the US to continue holding the seized assets was approaching — so they filed the separate case against his stuff. Because it’s a civil asset forfeiture case, the case is literally against his stuff, and not against Kim Dotcom (and, yes, this is as weird and nonsensical as it sounds). But there was a twist: because Dotcom was still in New Zealand, the Justice Department said that he was a “fugitive” and thus couldn’t even protest the forfeiture of his stuff. Unfortunately, both the district court and the appeals court agreed.
Again, let’s be totally clear here — because sometimes people get so focused on their belief that because Megaupload enabled copyright infringement that this is somehow okay. But here we have a situation where before anyone has been found guilty of anything, the US government was given permission to take and keep all of Kim Dotcom’s stuff. This should concern you even if you think Dotcom deserves to rot in prison, because there’s a clear absence of due process here. If Dotcom is eventually found to be not guilty — that won’t have any impact on this. The US government still gets to keep his stuff (or, well, whatever it can get its hands on).
So the issue here is not whether or not Kim Dotcom is guilty of copyright infringement. It’s whether or not the US government can just take his stuff before that other process has played out. That’s a problem.
And, unfortunately, it’s a problem that the Supreme Court will not be reviewing at this time. Even as some of the Justices have expressed concerns about civil asset forfeiture, apparently they didn’t want to take on this particular case. And, maybe that’s okay, because maybe, as with many people, they wouldn’t have been able to separate out the copyright question from the civil asset forfeiture question from the fugitive disentitlement question — all of which are separate but important.