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Kim Dotcom's extradition hearing live stream makes legal history but no drama

The Guardian The Guardian 31/08/2016 Eleanor Ainge Roy

The live streaming of Kim Dotcom’s extradition hearing in a New Zealand high court kicked off on Wednesday with warped pictures, delayed audio and dwindling viewership as the day wore on.

Megaupload founder Dotcom is fighting an extradition order to the United States, where he is wanted on online piracy charges.

On Tuesday, his lawyers were granted permission to live stream the court proceedings on YouTube, on the condition that it would be deleted at the conclusion of the case (estimated to be in six to eight weeks’ time) and that the video would air after a 20-minute delay in case any evidence was suppressed. Comments on the live stream have also been disabled.

Proceedings at Auckland high court kicked off at 10am local time and began broadcasting just after 10.20am. There were immediate technical issues that continued all day, with fractured pictures and delayed audio, which, combined with the complex legal proceedings, made it difficult for many people to understand what was going on.

German tech entrepreneur Kim Dotcom © STRINGER/Reuters German tech entrepreneur Kim Dotcom Journalist Toby Manhire live blogged the live stream throughout the day: “10.45am: I’m completely lost. This is because the audio is obviously being channelled through the serpentine plumbing system of the high court.”

Dotcom, who successfully argued that his case was of global interest and warranted more than short news clips, watched the live stream from the comfort of a leather chair in his “at home court”, complete with incense sticks and a fruit bowl.

Otago University law lecturer Marcelo Rodriguez Ferrere watched the live stream on and off throughout the day – or at least that was his intention. “I tried to make a go of watching it this afternoon but got quite bamboozled by it,” he said.

“It is extraordinarily complex, dry analysis, and the pictures and audio are out of sync. I don’t think we are watching a game-changer here.”

But Ferrere said his law students should tune in to get a real taste of the tedium and slow pace of the legal process.

Auckland University law professor Bill Hodge said he believed Dotcom had exaggerated the dramatic interest of the case and it was difficult for even the most seasoned law professionals to follow.

“I strongly agree with the fundamental importance of justice not only being done, but being seen to be done,” said Hodge.

Live streaming equipment at Kim Dotcom’s extradition appeal at the high court in Auckland. © AFP/Getty Images Live streaming equipment at Kim Dotcom’s extradition appeal at the high court in Auckland. “But there are no jury here, no witnesses, nothing dramatic whatsoever. The more interesting cases of rape and murder would not be fit for live streaming because of exposing witnesses to a worldwide audience.

“I applaud the principle of transparency, but I am wary of why he [Dotcom] pushed so hard for it.”

During the Kiwi lunch hour, viewers peaked at more than 800. But as the afternoon wore on viewers declined to around 500 at 3pm, and around 400 after that.

But Ferrere said even if only 20 of those viewers were New Zealanders, the live stream was worth it.

“It is so utterly boring,” he said. “But if there are people in Dunedin or Bluff watching who would have otherwise never have had the opportunity to see a court case live, than it was a good decision.”

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