U.S. Attorney chasing MegaUpload is former piracy fighter

Neil MacBride, the U.S. attorney who indicted MegaUpload founder Kim DotCom, is the former chief of antipiracy at the Business Software Alliance.

Greg Sandoval Former Staff writer
Greg Sandoval covers media and digital entertainment for CNET News. Based in New York, Sandoval is a former reporter for The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times. E-mail Greg, or follow him on Twitter at @sandoCNET.
Greg Sandoval
3 min read

The U.S. official who has accused Kim DotCom of operating an online criminal empire has plenty of piracy-fighting experience.

Neil MacBride, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, is the former general counsel and antipiracy enforcer for the Business Software Alliance, a trade group representing software producers such as Apple, Microsoft, Adobe, and Intuit.

MacBride has accused DotCom and six others of operating MegaUpload, a cyberlocker service that has allegedly generated more than $170 million in criminal proceeds. The government asserts that MegaUpload enabled and encouraged users to upload pirated movies and other media to one of its digital lockers and then share with others. MegaUpload then profited by selling advertising on the site and premium subscriptions to users, the government contends.

MegaUpload is among the largest criminal copyright cases ever brought against an Internet company, and if convicted of the charges against them, DotCom and his accomplices could face 20-year prison sentences. Following his arrest in New Zealand on Thursday, when police there conducted a large-scale raid at his Auckland mansion, DotCom's attorneys said he is innocent.

During a court hearing today to determine whether DotCom should be released on bail, his lawyers told the judge there is nothing criminal about his operation. Last week, Ira Rothken, one of DotCom's U.S. lawyers, told CNET that at most this is a dispute over copyright and should be handled in a civil proceeding. DotCom's lawyers say the United States has erred about the nature of MegaUpload's business.

Once the issue of bail is settled, the U.S. is expected to file extradition papers to try to get DotCom and three other suspects in custody in New Zealand brought back to this country to stand trial. Another suspect was arrested over the weekend in the Netherlands and the U.S. government is expected to also seek his extradition. The two remaining suspects are at large.

If DotCom is brought to trial in the United States, the case will undoubtedly bring mass press coverage from all over the world. DotCom is a well-known hacker, a twice-convicted felon, and street racer, who once offered to pay a $10 million reward for information leading to the capture of Osama bin Laden. On the other side of the courtroom will be MacBride.

In 2009, McBride was appointed to a senior position in the Department of Justice by the Obama administration and appointed to his current position later that year. Prior to that, he spent two years at BSA, where he oversaw global piracy issues for the group.

According to a story by my CNET colleague Declan McCullagh, MacBride oversaw the BSA program that rewarded people for phoning in tips about suspected software piracy.

A spokesman from MacBride's office declined to comment.

Rothken told CNET that DotCom is putting together his own legal team. According to published reports, one member of that team was supposed to be Robert Bennett, the attorney who represented former President Bill Clinton in a sexual harassment case brought by Paula Jones. Bennett, however, has had to step down from the case because of a conflict involving his firm and another client.