Kim Dotcom’s appeal against extradition to the United States began streaming on YouTube on Wednesday, the first ever New Zealand court case to be broadcast live on the internet.
The hearing was not initially blockbuster viewing with YouTube showing only around 900 people tuning in as the livestream began. By the time court resumed after the lunch break, the audience had shrunk to just over 500 viewers.
Dotcom, a German-born internet entrepreneur, noted on Twitter that the third day of the hearing would be given over to arguments from the lawyers representing his co-defendants, saying “they never had a global live audience. Please be kind.”
The livestream got off to a shaky start, with the audio too quiet to be understood, but this was soon remedied, with clear video from the courtroom showing two of Dotcom’s co-defendants Bram van der Kolk and Mathias Ortmann sitting quietly with their laptops while listening to their lawyer’s submissions.
Dotcom was not in court, instead posting a photo and video online showing him watching the hearing on a large screen television from his penthouse apartment on the Auckland waterfront.
He asked his almost half a million Twitter followers to join him in posting photos and videos of themselves watching the proceedings.
Dotcom, who hired a cameraman to film the hearing, had earlier hailed the judge’s decision to allow the case to be livestreamed as a victory for open justice.
Auckland High Court Justice Murray Gilbert gave permission for the livestreaming on Tuesday, ruling that it must be subject to a 20 minute delay in order to prevent any evidence subject to court suppression orders being made public.
Dotcom has also been told the livestream must show only the proceedings of the hearing, and that video footage must be removed once the six week hearing ends.
Dotcom, Ortmann, van der Kolk and fellow colleague Finn Batato were ruled eligible for extradition to the US last December, but are appealing the decision.
The four were arrested in New Zealand in 2012 and charged with copyright infringement, racketeering and money laundering in relation to the operations of Dotcom’s former file-sharing website Megaupload.
US authorities allege the site was being used to breach copyright because its users were encouraged to upload copyrighted material, including movies.