Last week, Kim Dotcom indicated that he’d like his extradition hearing to be broadcast live on the Internet.
“Because of global interest in my case we have asked the High Court to allow live-streaming of my 6 weeks of copyright extradition hearings,” he wrote on Twitter.
Yesterday morning, just before the hearing got underway, Dotcom’s lawyer Ron Mansfield again raised the issue. He said that a complex case of this nature might not receive fair reporting so a live stream could help restore the balance and ensure public scrutiny. Mansfield suggested YouTube as the perfect platform.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the U.S. government opposed Dotcom’s application, stating that the coverage might prejudice the criminal trial in the United States should Dotcom be extradited. In particular, the U.S. said footage from the hearing could threaten a potential jury pool.
But despite U.S. objections, earlier today Justice Murray Gilbert said the stream could go ahead, on YouTube. There will be some restrictions, however.
Guidelines for broadcasting from New Zealand courts mandate a 10-minute delay, but in Dotcom’s case that will be extended to 20 minutes. This will ensure that the court has the opportunity to suppress anything deemed unfit for public consumption.
Dotcom took to Twitter to celebrate.
Live streaming of my hearing is a milestone. We're breaking new ground. Please treat the court with respect. Let's make this the new normal.
— Kim Dotcom (@KimDotcom) August 30, 2016
But while the judge has granted Dotcom’s wishes, there will be restrictions. In addition to the delay, the comments section on YouTube will be disabled and footage from the hearing will not be permitted to remain online after the hearing has taken place.
Of course, neither option will be possible to control completely. Discussion of live events can easily take place elsewhere, notably on Twitter where the action takes place in real-time. Furthermore, people will undoubtedly rip the live stream from YouTube, so keeping that offline after the hearing has passed will prove entirely impossible.
Nevertheless, the transparency the stream will provide is being welcomed by many, not least Dotcom’s US-based lawyer Ira Rothken.
“It provides everybody in the world with a seat in the gallery of the New Zealand courtroom,” Rothken said. “It’s democracy at its finest.”