Excessive burden? USA not contributing to NZ’s $5.8m Dotcom case costs

Kim Dotcom outside New Zealand's Parliament

Crown Law has provided figures under the Official Information Act on the money and time spent in relation to legal work completed in respect of Kim Dotcom and his associates which amounts to more than $5.8 million.

Crown Law writes that the United States Department of Justice is not reimbursing New Zealand for any of these expenses, even though the cases largely relate to charges that they wish to bring against Mr Dotcom and his associates.

Crown Law hours spent

The figures:

  • are as at 8 February 2017;
  • include work on both domestic and mutual assistance (United States initiated extradition) legal proceedings;
  • exclude work completed to provide advice to other Government Departments, for example the Police or the GCSB who respectively picked up the bill for Crown Law’s advice to them; and
  • include most Crown Law legal staff time and some support staff time.

2011: 432.10
2012: 7,356.67
2013: 4,087.50
2014: 5,742.27
2015: 4,911.80
2016: 3,207.26
2017: 4.77
Total: 25,742.37

25,000 hours.

Using a conservative estimate of the value of the time spent ($140 per hour,1 which is the rate a Crown Law junior prosecutor would be billed out as – senior solicitors’ time is likely worth more, support staffs’ likely less), this comes to around NZD $3.6 million.

Disbursements

New Zealand has also covered the bill for work completed by external counsel on Crown Law’s behalf and expenses paid by Crown Law in relation to the Dotcom/Megaupload matters – another NZD $2.2 million.

This includes: $1.98 million on external barrister/solicitor fees, $171,800 on travel and accommodation, $23,151 on Court filing fees, $20,125 on photocopying, and $17,356 on professional fees including research material.

An excessive burden?

At least NZD $5.8 million has been spent on Kim Dotcom et al. by New Zealand so far, and it begs the question: was it worth it?

Should we have refused the United States’ mutual assistance request when it was made? Section 27(g)(i) of the Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Act 1992 allows New Zealand to refuse a request made by a foreign country if “in the opinion of the Attorney-General, the provision of assistance would impose an excessive burden on the resources of New Zealand”.

Kim Dotcom had hundreds of millions of dollars worth of assets before the raid on his home and it’s not a shock that he has aggressively defended the cases brought against him.

If spending $5.8 million+ has not been an excessive burden on New Zealand, what amount would be?

1 This is a lower rate to that used by David Fisher in his September 2015 article of $198/hour.

Image credit: Sarah-Rose


The full response from Crown Law, including the breakdown of expenses incurred is embedded below.

2-steps to get a text when someone from Trade Me pays you

Trade Me

Providing awesome customer service to buyers on Trade Me involves being super responsive. One way to help with this is to set up a text that’s sent to you by your bank when a buyer pays you so you know you can ship an item. Follow the two easy steps below to do that – they should work with all banks.

1) Set up a separate bank account for Trade Me payments to go into.

You should be able to do this through your bank’s online banking.

Keep in mind you don’t have control over how money is deposited into your account and in-branch or manual deposits might cost you – consider using an online savings account to avoid fees. Generally banks will stop buyers from depositing to online savings accounts in a branch, and electronic deposits are free.

Giving out your main account to Trade Me buyers might mean you’re charged transaction fees if they deposit at a branch.

2) Set up a text alert through online banking.

Set up a text to be sent to you when your balance goes over $0 on this account or a deposit is made to it that’s greater than $1.

Text alerts are generally free, but a minority of banks charge per text sent to you. As an alternative, email alerts are almost always free.

ASB text alert set up
Westpac text alert set up
BNZ text alert set up

2.1) Reset the alert.

If your alert relies on a balance increase, transfer the money out of the Trade Me account after you’ve received it.

This post contains personal opinions and advice of a general nature which are not intended to reflect the position of any organisation I am related to. No responsibility is taken for any loss suffered by following it.

What happens when a salaried YouTuber goes solo: the Daily Grace story

Grace Helbig

You might have heard of Daily Grace, or Grace Helbig. She’s a 28-year-old actress-comedian who uploads videos on YouTube Monday to Friday. DailyGrace has 2 million+ subscribers and 227 million video views, and Forbes listed Grace on their 30 Under 30 Hollywood & Entertainment list for 2014 along with Rebel Wilson, Jennifer Lawrence, Kelly Osbourne and Anna Kendrick saying “Helbig is one of the sharpest, funniest voices on YouTube”.

Daily Grace died on December 31 2013.

Not the person, it’s just DailyGrace isn’t Grace’s channel anymore and since the start of 2014 no new content has been uploaded. The videos being uploaded Monday to Friday on that channel are reruns (first reruns on YouTube?) and presumably Grace isn’t receiving any of the ad revenue from them. Until recently, Grace had a contract with a company called My Damn Channel, who are going through an identity crisis and rebranding as Omnivision Entertainment. She made videos on the YouTube channel DailyGrace and they paid her a salary and maybe a commission based on YouTube views.

“Grace leaving Daily Grace is kinda like a Pokemon evolving. You’re sad because you liked how cute it looked before, but you’re also excited because it can shoot lasers out of its eyes now.” –killmeeko

After five years, Grace and My Damn Channel have chosen to part ways which, as VideoInk says, is probably the hardest decision Grace has made in her career. My Damn Channel owns the content and intellectual property Grace created while in their employment, including the YouTube channel DailyGrace, 2 million+ subscribers, themed days (Sexy Friday etc.), catch phrases (you’ve been hazed, new viewser alert…), and Facebook page–her Tumblr and Twitter are still hers, presumably because they aren’t under the Daily Grace brand.

How do you deal with suddenly not being able to use any of the intellectual property you came up with? Compare a 2013 ‘commenting on your comments’ video with a 2014 one:

“Here’s the lesson: Many corporations think that by owning YouTube channels, they’ll have something valuable. But the value is not in the channel or in the number of subscribers. On YouTube, despite the corporatization of everything, the value is in people.” –Tim Helbig

The brand that My Damn Channel is asserting ownership over is effectively a person. People subscribed to DailyGrace for Grace, and have been steadily unsubscribing because of the new content drought and My Damn Channel/Grace drama. Grace is continuing to upload videos daily on her used-to-be-second-but-is-now-main channel ItsGrace, something she wasn’t allowed to talk about while she was still in charge of the DailyGrace accounts. Viewers were left with a cryptic goodbye on December 27 where Grace said she would be back making videos from January 6 after a break. She couldn’t say that these new videos wouldn’t be on the DailyGrace channel.

Is it fair enough that My Damn Channel is enforcing their rights under a mutually agreed contract which Grace would have either received legal advice over or had the opportunity to seek legal advice over? Probably. An arrangement that guaranteed an income for making YouTube videos would have looked pretty great five years ago, but as time goes on you’d start to realise that perhaps you could be earning more without the middleman taking a cut… and for doing what exactly? My Damn Channel is a business and they’ll want to get all the ad revenue they can from the old DailyGrace videos which they’re rerunning on YouTube. Grace is going independent, at least for the time being, and will have full ownership over the content she creates from now on. And at least 1.7 million subscribers have found their way to ItsGrace.

The sad thing is that some fans might never find Grace’s new channel (My Damn Channel hasn’t changed the about page for DailyGrace from “I vlog everyday! Five days a week!”, except for the removal of her social media links and stripping the themed days from the header image), Grace was faced with rebuilding her subscriber base from the 100,000 she had on her second channel, and that the day has come where My Damn Channel is exercising the control they have over a whole vault of content Grace made in an intimate setting–inside her home–by reuploading it in an attempt to keep up the appearance that Daily Grace is still alive.

But Grace still has herself, and maybe that’s all the matters.

“DailyGrace is Grace Helbig, which is me. DailyGrace [the channel] was a concept owned by My Damn Channel, but Grace Helbig is my personality, owned by myself…so that’s what I’m moving forward with and that’s what, to me, is priceless.” –Grace Helbig

Image credit: Grace Helbig

TEDxChristchurch: Curiouser and Curiouser

Hi. I was at TEDxChristchurch today. If you couldn’t make it, The Press was live streaming the day on their website, and videos will be up on TEDxChristchurch’s website soon. Coming to TEDx each year is like watching a child grow up because the quality of the event gets better every year – like design of the slides introducing speakers, audience participation methods, and the name tag/programme.

TEDx Christchurch 2013 lanyards USB music

Here’s why you need to watch the videos of the talks when they go online… (And also because I’ve missed bits, I’ve misinterpreted and I’ve probably misquoted a little.)

Continue Reading

FIVE TIPS FOR GRINDR SUCCESS

If you:

  • re-download the app to get around someone’s block
  • detail a sexual fantasy (involving that person) after they say “I just want to chat”
  • repeatedly ask to meet someone after they say “I just want to chat”
  • re-download the app to get around a block and repeatedly ask to meet someone after they’ve said “I just want to chat”
  • feel it’s appropriate to chat to someone once, wait months, then send a naked selfie

Please stopPlease stopPlease stopPlease stop

POLi, Air New Zealand, and Credit Card Surcharges

Air New Zealand plane on tarmac
Air New Zealand. Crazy about rugby… and surcharging customers

Air New Zealand is a quality brand. I like their in-flight snacks, don’t mind paying slightly more for their reputation of reliability compared to their domestic route competitor JetStar, and I appreciate their creative safety videos and the fact they are slightly more interesting to watch multiple times.

Then there is POLi. POLi sounds friendly.

If you can use POLi, it saves you from Air New Zealand’s excessive credit card surcharge fees by letting you use a bank transfer to pay for flights. You can’t use it if you’re in New Zealand and have a Mac. This rules me out. Apparently the Australian POLi now works with Macs fine.

ASB and BNZ </3 POLi

Last year banks started warning against using POLi because how it operates to verify you are actually paying Air New Zealand and friends is a bit suspicious.

Interestingly, Air New Zealand isn’t even listed in that Stuff article, even though they’re likely the biggest company using POLi in New Zealand, and are featured on POLi’s website.

Providing your log in details to a third party will be in violation of the internet banking terms and conditions you’ve agreed to, and potentially opens you up to being liable for losses.

There is the possibility of an additional motive going on here: banks sell credit and debit cards, and those cards make them money. POLi is quite an attractive alternative because it saves you something like $8 on a return domestic flight.

Air New Zealand’s Surcharging

This surcharging is extortive, misleading, and unlike airplanes that come on time, Peter Jackson spoofs, and free-but-not-really-free cookies, doesn’t endear Air New Zealand to me. Especially on domestic flights.

It’s presented as a transaction charge to recover costs (“Air New Zealand needs to recover this cost”), but it gets charged multiple times in the same card transaction. When I pointed this out to Air New Zealand they ignored me.

Air New Zealand pay something to accept credit cards, but that is not $4 per person flying, per direction they are flying. Instead of passing on the percentage they are actually charged, which Bernard Hickey’s industry experts say would be less than 1%, they charge a fixed fee multiple times in the same card transaction.

A group booking shows how ridiculous this gets. I once flew with a dozen or so people, and each person was charged $4 there, and $4 back, even though the flights were booked over just two transactions. To their credit Air New Zealand refunded close to $100 of fees after I called them.

Air New Zealand even issued a press release in 2008 chastising Pacific Blue for, among other things, their $4 per sector card surcharge because Pacific Blue offered no alternative payment. Kind of like what Air New Zealand does to Mac users. Or what they do to anyone following the advice of banks. (I’m ignoring Airpoints and Travelcard as payment methods because they aren’t accessible forms of payment for a lot of people.)

The ComCom have “investigated” the matter, concluding that the “card payment fee is used to recover all of the direct and indirect costs associated with credit cards payments.” The key word here being indirect, I think.

To be fair to Air New Zealand, JetStar charges $5 per flight for card transactions, but let’s be honest, JetStar are a hot mess, and Australian, and you shouldn’t be booking with them anyway.

Either way, it’s interesting to see these surcharges creep up over time, for cost recovery purposes, I’m sure. Are the airlines poor negotiators when it comes to their merchant agreements? I wouldn’t think so.

To quote ex-Air New Zealand Chief Operating Officer Andrew Miller: “research feedback shows customers are keen for… one easy to understand price with no added levies to the fare”.

Tomorrow: Ticketek, Ticketmaster and their fees (including the emailing-you-a-PDF surcharge). Maybe. Probably not.

Image credit: me

“WHY DO I HAVE TO TAKE MY HAT OFF?”

“In Massachusetts many banks agreed that their customers must remove their hats and sunglasses once they crossed a bank’s threshold. Of these branches, only 3% were robbed.” – The Economist

Perhaps the bank version of the “please turn off your digital devices” policy on planes is the no hats (or hoodies, or helmets, or sunglasses) policy.

Mr Delancaster-Swinbank-Slack is annoyed that the staff at his local ANZ branch continually ask him to remove his hat when he visits.

The sign at the door clearly indicates the policy, but Mr Delancaster-Swinbank-Slack is 83 and is no “young thug”, so he chooses to ignore it.

He puts ANZ staff into a difficult position because they can’t apply the policy discriminately to just the people they think look a bit dodge.

He notes that staff “usually relented because of his age and non-menacing appearance”. He puts the other staff working in the branch into an even more difficult position. Say someone else comes into the branch. Maybe they look dodgy, maybe they don’t. They’re also wearing a hat.

How do you explain to them that you’d like them to remove their hat when a couple of metres away Anthony is over there rocking his sports hat? Do you choose to ask the person who just walked in, potentially really offending one of your customers with the insinuation that they look suspect? Or do you not ask, knowing that the large majority of bank robbers cover their face/head in some way?

 This post represents my views, not my employer’s.