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Judge Steps Down From Megaupload Case Over Controversial Comment

Judge Harvey has stepped down from the Megaupload extradition hearings after a comment in which he called the US "the enemy" had brought his impartiality into question.

Judge David Harvey, the judge who was overseeing the extradition case of eccentric Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom and other employees of the file locker site, has stepped down from the case after a comment he made brought his impartiality in the case into question.

The comment was made at the NetHui internet conference on July 12th in Auckland, where he had been part of a discussion about the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a controversial intellectual rights agreement in the works, much like ACTA in Europe, involving the US and a dozen other countries. Judge Harvey mentioned that, under current laws, citizens of New Zealand could legally hack the DVD region codes designed to restrict DVDs to specific countries in order to watch those movies; this would no longer be true if TPP were to become law. “Under TPP and the American [DMCA] you will not be able to do that, that will be prohibited,” he said. “If you do, you will be a criminal, that’s what will happen. There are all sorts of ways this whole thing is being ramped up and if I could use Russell’s tweet from earlier on: we have met the enemy and he is US.”

For those who didn’t catch it, Judge Harvey was making a play on words for the quote “we have met the enemy and he is us,” itself a parody of a message sent by Commodore Perry in 1813 after the Battle of Lake Erie, saying “we have met the enemy and he is ours.”

The quote didn’t garner much attention or controversy until three days later when the New Zealand Herald quoted Professor Bill Hodge, a law professor at Auckland University, as saying that the comment could possibly “be seen as probably an extra-judicial comment that isn’t helpful.” The story was then picked up by several other media sources, including some US-based tech blogs.

Judge Harvey has ruled several times in Dotcom’s favor, including having his internet access restored and ordering the US to hand over evidence gathered against him. His most recent involvement with the case came a week ago when he delayed the extradition hearing from August until March in order to allow more time to resolve various legal arguments revolving around the case. Judge Jan-Marie Doogue, the chief district court judge of New Zealand, gave a statement explaining Judge Harvey’s decision to remove himself from the case, saying that “[he recognized] that remarks made in the context of a paper he delivered on copyright law at a recent conference could reflect on his impartiality and that the appropriate response is for him to step down from the case.”

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