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Megaupload search warrants were illegal, New Zealand judge says

June 28, 2012|By Ryan Faughnder
  • Kim Dotcom, left, founder of file-sharing site Megaupload.com, with Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak in Auckland, New Zealand, in May. Wozniak has said that the U.S. piracy case against Dotcom is "hokey" and a threat to Internet innovation.
Kim Dotcom, left, founder of file-sharing site Megaupload.com, with Apple… (Kim Dotcom )

A New Zealand judge has ruled that investigators obtained evidence unlawfully in a search of Megaupload.com founder Kim Dotcom’s home, dealing a huge blow to the U.S. case against the online file-sharing company. 

High Court Chief Justice Helen Winkelmann said in the ruling Thursday that warrants used by New Zealand authorities to conduct the search at the FBI's behest were too broadly defined and “did not adequately describe the offenses to which they were related.”

“Indeed, they fell well short of that,” she said in the 56-page ruling. “They were general warrants, and as such, are invalid.”

This is the latest setback in the U.S. government’s attempt to extradite Dotcom, a resident of New Zealand, on charges of copyright infringement and money laundering.

The government shut down the website in January, alleging that it was being used for illegal distribution of copyrighted content such as TV programs, movies, music and software. Dotcom has denied any wrongdoing. 

In the ruling, Winkelmann also said that the FBI's duplication of data on Dotcom's hard drives and its removal from the country was unlawful. She also said the government should have laid out a process for sorting out relevant material from electronic storage devices related to the case.

A spokesman for the prosecution in the case against Megaupload declined to comment. Dotcom's extradition hearing is still set for August. 

MegaUpload was advertised as having 180 million registered users, according to the original indictment.

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