In massive, swaggering capital letters, “Mega” stretches across the grassy slope in front of Dotcom Mansion. A huddle of electricians and carpenters are removing the wooden stencils and wiring in the fluorescent tubes. They are up to G. All around the vast grounds of Kim Dotcom‘s luxury home just north of Auckland, New Zealand, gardeners and technicians are busy, like Oompa-Loompas at the Chocolate Factory, setting up for the big night, overlooked by life-size inflatable giraffes and hippos.
On Sunday, almost a year after the internet entrepreneur and several of his associates were arrested in a spectacular dawn raid on the mansion, about 200 invited guests will gather at the opulent estate for the launch of Mega. The new cyberlocker service is a simplified, super-encrypted successor to Megaupload, the file-sharing site that once reputedly accounted for 4% of all internet traffic, and which US prosecutors had taken offline moments before the helicopters descended in New Zealand a year ago.
After spending almost a month in prison in early 2012, Dotcom and his co-accused were awarded bail – the first of a series of court victories that have left the prosecution case looking increasingly wobbly. With any hearing for extradition to the US to face criminal copyright charges having been pushed back, it is hard not to see the extravagant unveiling of the new site as a two-finger gesture aimed at US authorities.
“I don’t see it like that,” says Dotcom, sitting at the head of a 20-metre-long table out the back of the house, flanked by two of his lawyers and his co-accused colleague Finn Batao – all glued to iPads and laptops. The German-born tycoon is clearly more than willing to be cast as the courageous leader of a crusade against the dinosaurs of Hollywood and the politicians who enable their obsolete ways of doing business.