When it comes to the online space, Kim Dotcom is undoubtedly one of the most polarizing personalities around. From Megaupload to Mega to his fledgling music service Baboom, everything touched by the man has been bathed in publicity and heated opinion.
It is this ability to attract attention that undoubtedly played a key role in his creation of the Internet Party, a political movement with a stated aim to shake up New Zealand politics and put Dotcom-affiliated politicians in Parliament.
Last month, however, the elections failed to go as planned. The Internet Party conceded defeat without winning a single seat, with its founder honoring tradition by politely congratulating Prime Minister and arch-rival John Key on his success.
After endless appearances and endless daily tweets, Dotcom essentially disappeared from public life, only breaking his silence to comment on the video game Destiny and his exit from Baboom. Today we catch up with the controversial entrepreneur to find out what happened.
“Baboom is this great idea of unchaining the artists from major record labels, allowing them to deal directly with their fanbase and using groundbreaking new ways of monetization that pay artists even when fans access content for free,” Dotcom told TF.
“But Baboom is facing tough opposition from the labels. Baboom has had to deal with unfair and deliberate efforts to make us fail. I won’t go into details.”
Dotcom says that for the sake of the artists he wants Baboom to succeed. But, in order for that to happen, a sacrifice needed to be made.
“The best way to achieve that success was to take me out of Baboom completely. We have a great management team and some brave investors in place. The brand ‘Kim Dotcom’ is toxic and a major distractor to what Baboom is trying to achieve,” he concedes.
While sometimes problematic, Dotcom’s branding is clearly a double-edged sword, one only needs to look at the 2012 launch of Mega.co.nz to see that. On the tiniest of budgets, Dotcom managed to rally the world’s press to witness the launch of his new cloud-storage site. And without him it’s doubtful that Baboom would’ve achieved the profile it has today.
But while those same strengths allowed the Internet Party to became a news event every day leading up to the election, Dotcom’s profile and history – by his own admission – became a millstone around the party’s neck. Every aspect of his private life became a point of leverage for his political opposition.
“The Internet Party failed to deliver meaningful change in New Zealand at the last election because of the media spin by our opponents,” Dotcom says.
“They have successfully turned me into a villain, a German Nazi, a horrible employer, a political hacker, a practitioner of prohibited digital voodoo magic and nothing short of a monster. I would hate that guy too if I didn’t know that it wasn’t true.”
Dotcom says that part of the problem is that he has powerful enemies who in turn have friends in positions of influence, including in the press.
“When you have the US Government, the NZ Government, all Hollywood studios and all major record labels fighting against you, you don’t have a lot of friends, especially in the media,” Dotcom says.
“They either own the media (like in the US) or control the media with their significant advertising spending. Their passion to destroy me and everything I do, because of a copyright disagreement, is almost as fanatical as some of the religious extremism I see on TV.”
So with the election over, and maybe even Dotcom’s entire political career with it, the entrepreneur still has huge adversity to overcome. As he cuts Baboom free and wishes the company every success, Dotcom thoughts and energies turn to his pending extradition case. He knows it’s not going to be easy, especially given the mauling he received at the hands of New Zealand’s political heavyweights in the run up to the election.
“If I was a judge in New Zealand I wouldn’t think too highly of ‘Kim Dotcom’ after months of prime time media bashing by the Prime Minister personally and his media helpers,” Dotcom says.
“John Key constantly made the Internet Party and its goals for Internet Freedom about my extradition case and he accused me of attempting to subvert the New Zealand judiciary. He basically told the judiciary every day that I’m a selfish, criminal man who ‘has to go away’.”
While Dotcom insists his motives were altruistic, there can be little doubt that if the election had gone his way the words of John Key and friends might have meant just that little bit less. As it stands, things went pretty badly.
The details of that extradition fight will become clear during the months to come, but in closing Dotcom shared with us an interesting development.
“After 1000 days of waiting we finally got access to our own data (copies of our personal computers / hard drives). Remember, the Government made us wait this long for a single reason only: They demanded access to our encryption codes,” he says.
“But here’s the twist: It turns out that the Government had access to the encryption codes all along. Who would have thought that they didn’t install a trojan on my computer while they had the GCSB / NSA spying on me.”
Kim Dotcom’s extradition hearing is currently scheduled to take place in February 2015. Expect the media circus to get going again soon.