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Kim Dotcom: Are such Internet sensations pirates or hactivists?

Kim Dotcom, SOPA: Copyright law and its enforcement have dominated recent headlines, first with the Internet blackout protests against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the US Congress, and then with the arrest in New Zealand of Megaupload's Kim Dotcom on charges of online piracy crimes in the US. But the issue of online, large-scale file sharing – and the risk of associated copyright violation – is not new.  Here are five international players who have been targets of copyright enforcement.

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German Internet millionaire Kim Dotcom, aka Kim Schmitz poses beside a car in Hong Kong in this 1999 file photo.

Reuters/File

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Kim Dotcom

The most recent target of US copyright enforcement efforts is Kim Dotcom, the founder of Megaupload.com, a Hong Kong-based company that operated an "Internet locker" service. Users could anonymously store and transfer huge amounts of data, including movies, software, and other media files – many of which the US says are illegal copies. Mr. Dotcom was arrested last Friday in his Auckland, New Zealand, mansion on charges of racketeering and copyright infringement in the US. 

The indictment says that Dotcom and Megaupload are responsible for $500 million in damages to copyright holders and earned $175 million in ad sales and subscriptions to the locker service. Dotcom, who says he is innocent, could face 20 years in prison if convicted.

Dotcom, born Kim Schmitz in Germany, is a colorful character who built up his own reputation as an Internet "bad boy" through YouTube videos of his extravagant, and sometimes illegal, behavior. Dotcom's videos, now unavailable, featured him racing sports cars on public streets, cavorting with bikini-clad models, and enjoying other luxuries, writes tech news site CNet. But his "bad boy" act is not necessarily bravado; in 1998, he was convicted of fraud and hacking charges in Germany, and in 2002, he was convicted of insider trading, also in Germany.

A New Zealand judge denied bail to Dotcom, expressing concern that he might flee to Germany, a country with no extradition treaty with the US.

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