Political Porn With Hamish

by / July 30, 2012

All Hail Kim Dotcom

In December last year, the name “Kim Dotcom” would have meant little to the majority of New Zealanders. A raid on the former Chrisco mansion in late January by Police acting on the direction of US authorities changed all that. Since then, Dotcom has become a (or, for some, ‘the’) recurring political issue all year.

The eccentric German immigrant keeps managing to find his way back into the media and causing headaches for the Government.

His arrest provoked criticism of the Investor Plus residency category, leading to the media uncovering that National’s policy aimed at attracting high wealth individuals  has resulted in the majority of the required $10 million investments being held in government bonds. Further, there were accusations of buying citizenship due to Dotcom’s conviction of insider trading; the Overseas Investment Office would not allow Dotcom to purchase the Cottesville property he instead leases due to him failing a character test.

His allegations against John Banks became a bigger issue than the Nick Smith-Bronwyn Pullar-Michele Boag ACC “scandal”, and had the potential to throw the Government into disarray. At the time of this publication going to print though, news has come through of the police decision not to press charges.

His name has also come up in relation to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, copyright, internet access and media in general. He joined a Queen Street funeral procession for TVNZ7, went to the final filming of Russell Brown’s Media7 (soon to be Media3). He’s positioned himself as the good guy being persecuted by the colluding might of Hollywood, FBI and Department of Justice.

He’s a likeable guy and knows how to win public support. An internet mogul who knows how to use his tools to the best of their ability. A lively twitter account has further boosted his popularity with the now infamous #swimatkims, which came on the back of his widely viewed and reported tongue-in-check music videos .

With such popularity and willingness to become involved in political issues, I often wonder if Dotcom would be interested in getting into politics. As a foreign citizen he’s obviously not eligible to stand for Parliament—that requires the acquisition of New Zealand citizenship and relinquishing of foreign citizenship—but he could still become involved, perhaps as a high profile supporter of a new party.

I was fortunate enough to attend the recent Nethui conference, where 600 attendees discussed a range of issues relating to the internet. Dotcom’s name was a common feature of many conversations and an appearance by him seemed to top the wishlist of many attendees. (bit.ly/LOPO8F)

Raised at Nethui was a disadvantage New Zealand faces in trade, the “tyranny of distance”. Optimistic discussion resulted, with the view that the internet provides an excellent opportunity to overcome the tyranny. Yet, we seem to have very few MPs out their championing liberalised laws and greater investment to promote economic development through the net.

Dotcom could become the man behind those causes. We’re a country whose restrictive copyright laws prevent the political parody Australians can enjoy and that I longed for in the first edition of this column; (bit.ly/OHWJwg) a nation where you can lose your access to the internet for illegally downloading material which is commercially available overseas but not here.

Dotcom understands the issues and understands e-commerce. E-commerce has seen the “middle man” cut out from a range of industries, meaning consumers can buy directly from the supplier as seen in buying a ticket directly from an airline online today, instead of a travel agent. The film, television and music industries, however, have managed to protect themselves, for the time being. Dotcom wants to bring these industries in line with others, by dealing directly with artists and creators. His “Megabox” (bit.ly/OFlRso) attempts to cut out the middle man by linking directly with artists and generating revenue via advertising.

“Megabox and Megakey are potentially life-threatening to the current middleman business model dominating artists and content. I would like to hand the power to the artists and creators” he says.

Whatever his wider politics, his views around the internet in a more formal political context would be a welcome change to some we’ve seen promoted previously. (bit.ly/LPVoCW and bit.ly/LPVqLe)

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