September 20, 2007 4:00 AM PDT
Leaked e-mails reveal MediaDefender's antipiracy woes
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MediaDefender's e-mails show that the company's efforts against most BitTorrent "clients," or the programs that let people download BitTorrent files, were ineffective. The one BitTorrent client that MediaDefender's defenses seemed to work on was uTorrent. In one e-mail exchange, MediaDefender executives were gleeful when they learned that Paramount Pictures was planning to test the company's effectiveness by tracking its abilities on uTorrent.
"Please add all of their titles (there are only 4 of them, I think) to interdiction," writes one MediaDefender manager. "If we perform solidly on BitTorrent, they will probably give us more business :)."
In another exchange from July, MediaDefender managers are upset that the company is asked to prove the effectiveness of its technology on a client other than uTorrent. BayTSP was the company hired by a MediaDefender client to track the company's effectiveness.
"Bay did very little testing using uTorrent," a MediaDefender executive wrote. "I thought the tester was down with uTorrent. Can you gently push him? Top priority. Thanks."
Another problem that seemed to plague the company was a lack of resources. E-mail exchanges between NBC Universal and MediaDefender from last May show that problems arose when the Hollywood studio asked the antipiracy company to protect some new content. MediaDefender executives realized their resources were maxed out and couldn't service any more content. They looked for ways to make room. One idea executives considered was to cut back on protecting content belonging to another client: Universal Music Group.
"The only UMG projects active now are the ones already on Billboard," said an e-mail from a MediaDefender employee. "We've tried to reduce it as much as possible. We'll probably have to bite the bullet on a few projects and pick a couple projects to not protect at all."
It's not clear whether MediaDefender went through with the plan. MediaDefender and Universal Music Group did not respond to interview requests. But Universal's contract with MediaDefender can be found among the e-mails pilfered from the company. It calls for the music company to pay $4,000 for one month of protection for an album and $2,000 for a month's worth of protection for a single song.
Sounds like a lot of money, but it's difficult to know whether the protection actually worked or will in the future. As file-sharing protocols continue to improve, circumstances are bound to get even more difficult for companies like MediaDefender, said Chris Castle, a longtime music industry attorney and executive.
"I think that one of the problems in general is that you can't put a $100 piece of security on something that sells for 99 cents," Castle said. "There is only so much money you're going to spend to protect a piece of content and that means there's only so much that antipiracy companies can afford to do."
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