There’s much to be said about KIM DOTCOM, a former teenage prodigy-turned-Internet entrepreneur who found success with his Megaupload file hosting service. At its peak, the website saw more than 50 million visitors per day, catapulting him to millionaire status. His persona is also the stuff of legends and just as intriguing. Dotcom is known for his opulent lifestyle of yachts, exotic cars and extravagant parties. He’s as close to a real-life comic book villain you’ll get.
Born Kim Schmitz in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany, Kim Dotcom’s childhood is often described as a troubled one. This may have fueled his interest in hacking which reportedly saw a teenage Dotcom besting the Pentagon, NASA and Citibank. True or not, he’d eventually be charged with data espionage and computer fraud for trafficking telephone cards in the mid-1990s. He was a juvenile at the time so the verdict was suspended, but the ordeal foreshadowed things to come.
Aliases and Businesses
Dotcom has gone by different pseudonyms over the years, including Kimble and Kim Tim Jim Vestor. He has also launched a number of online businesses in addition to Megaupload, which began as a security company called Data Protect. In 2001, his primary income was reportedly an investment vehicle known as Kimvestor. This was during the early 2000s tech bubble and Dotcom, himself, valued this company at €200 million. Other dot-com companies would eventually go bust, but Kim Dotcom thrived. He’d celebrate his success by legally changing his last name to “Dotcom” in 2005.
Up until 2012, the Dotcom businesses were extremely profitable. Dotcom’s personal net worth had reached $200 million, and he had even begun to diversify the “Mega” brands with two of them set to rival the Spotify and Netflix business model. But it all came crashing down when the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) seized the Megaupload website on January 19th, charging Dotcom with a number of serious allegations that included Internet piracy, money laundering, racketeering, wire fraud and copyright infringement. The hacker group Anonymous returned fire just hours later by taking down the DOJ and FBI websites.
The Establishment vs. Kim Dotcom
Dotcom was arrested in New Zealand, where he had been a resident since late 2010. The scene of his apprehension was a devastating one. About seventy-six (76) New Zealand police officers were dispatched to his mansion and assets totaling $17 million were confiscated. All of his bank accounts were frozen, and Dotcom is on record comparing his treatment to that of a convicted criminal. Since posting bail, he’s been fighting a protracted legal battle to prevent extradition to the United States. At the time of this writing, Dotcom lost his appeal and must stand trial for copyright infringement and fraud.
This is a serious blow to the Internet tycoon who faces the prospect of a lengthy prison sentence if he is indeed extradited. Dotcom, on his part, has always maintained his innocence. Countering the claim that he cost film and record industries more than $500 million, he’s stated that he’s actually tried stopping copyright infringement. He attributes the charges brought against him to politically connected studios in Hollywood.
In true entrepreneur fashion, Kim Dotcom has tried to remain active amid his personal battles. On January 19, 2013, exactly one (1) year after his arrest, Dotcom launched Mega which saw a rebranding of the Megaupload empire that made him wealthy. And in March 2014, he ventured into New Zealand politics by founding the Internet Party. Neither venture has lived up to his earlier successes: He disassociated himself with Mega in 2015, and the Internet Party fell below a mandatory headcount of five hundred (500), leading to its deregulation.
And then there’s his musical ventures that saw the release of his debut album entitled Good Times. Although a solid electronic-dance effort, it would be remiss to not mention his part in Racist Day, a closed-door ribbing session during the album’s creation. Although several people involved said that it was comedic and all in fun, it surprised and even angered some of his US fans.
The jury is still out on the legacy of Kim Dotcom. Is he really a hero who stands for Internet freedom, privacy and freedom of speech, or a villain who prospered by ripping off the global entertainment industry? No hero or villain is all one thing, and even Kim Dotcom has admitted to mistakes he made in his younger years. His popularity has undoubtedly declined as of late, but he is by no means without support. There are many who believe he was unfairly targeted and made an example of. Others have pointed to excessive force and overreach on the part of democratic governments.
Whatever your position, its probably to soon to write him off just yet. There’s still a chance of him resurrecting his image and reclaiming his position as Internet extraordinaire. After all, what else should we expect from the poster boy of the Digital age? The story of a teenage hacker who not only built a string of successful Internet companies, but literally took the digital world by storm.
Visit Kim Dotcom’s website at Kim.com