May 24, 2006 10:30 PM PDT

MPAA accused of hiring a hacker

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A lawsuit filed Wednesday accuses the Motion Picture Association of America of hiring a hacker to steal information from a company that the MPAA has accused of helping copyright violators.

The lawsuit (click for PDF), filed in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California by Torrentspy.com parent Valence Media, doesn't identify the man the company says was approached by an MPAA executive. But the suit calls the man a former associate of one of the plaintiffs and alleges that he was asked to retrieve private information on Torrentspy.com, a search engine that directs people to download links.

Torrentspy's complaint includes claims that the man whom the MPAA allegedly paid $15,000 to steal e-mail correspondence and trade secrets has admitted his role in the plot and is cooperating with the company.

"It is a Hollywood drama, what happened here," Ira Rothken, Torrentspy's attorney, said in a telephone interview Wednesday evening.

The allegations come three months after the MPAA filed suit against Torrentspy and other directories for allegedly making it easier for pirates to distribute movies over the Internet.

"These claims (by Torrentspy) are false," Kori Bernards, the MPAA's vice president of corporate communications, said in an e-mail to CNET News.com. "Torrentspy is trying to obscure the facts to hide the fact that they are facilitating thievery. We are confident that our lawsuit against them will be successful because the law is on our side."

The suit filed by the MPAA was a departure from the organization's previous strategy of going after Web sites that were directly involved in aiding file sharing. By suing Torrentspy, as well as such companies as IsoHunt, BTHub.com, and TorrentBox.com, MPAA was declaring that it saw little difference between the file-swapping networks that the studios have aggressively taken to court and those companies that direct people to works that may be protected by copyright.

One MPAA executive is quoted in Torrentspy's lawsuit as saying: "We don't care how you get it," referring to the alleged assignment to dig up information on Torrentspy.

Some of the information that the man allegedly pilfered included a spreadsheet containing Torrentspy income and expenses from January to June 2005, copies of private e-mails between Torrentspy employees, detailed information on the company's servers, and billing information, according to the lawsuit.

Torrentspy alleges in the suit that the man, whom the company refers to as the "informant," has provided documents that prove the nature of his relationship with the MPAA, including a written agreement signed by the hacker and an MPAA executive, Rothken said.

"We have very significant proof of wrongdoing and the MPAA's involvement," Rothken said. "We think it's ironic for the MPAA to claim that they are protecting the rights of the movie studios and then go out and pirate other people's property."

Rothken said that the MPAA also paid the hacker to "gather nonpublic information" about other Torrentspy-related sites. Rothken declined to specify which sites.

Following all this, the "informant" had a change of heart and contacted Torrentspy.

"By doing that, he's mitigating the harm that he did," Rothken said. "He is also allowing us to get a remedy against the MPAA and to help us stop them from using the stolen data."

Torrentspy has asked the court for unspecified damages and a jury trial.

CNET News.com's Joris Evers contributed to this report.

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34 comments

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Well
It started to happen quite often :)
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Posted by firstlast (35 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Nothing they do suprises me...
I'm so tired of the music/movie industry. They created the formats that they are now suing everyone for sharing. What about all the money they made when they were the only ones with the technology to make CD's and MP3's.. etc? They also created the betamax and vcr/vhs as well as audio cassette tapes and the harware to reproduce and record content. Now that they (most notably Sony) have gobbled up the content creators they want to sue everyone! They weren't complaining when they were making millions off the hardware they were selling. Now they want to sue Sirrius radio for making hardware that records radio broadcasts! According to the theory behind the Grokster ruling they could be sued by a whole slew of 70's and 80's artists that they "assisted consumers" in infringing on their copyrights... Where does it end? They opened their own pandora's box. Don't sue me to try and close it!
Posted by cidman2001 (223 comments )
Reply Link Flag
umm... no
learn your history, get your facts straight, then try to post your views. I agree with your feeling, but you're wrong so many places in your assertions, that you end up sounding dumb.
The industry FOUGHT all those innovations, not created them.
Posted by skeptik (590 comments )
Link Flag
Look at the Grokster ruling...
Thanks for backing me up so eloquently...If you look at
the Grokster ruling and apply it to Sony and all these
other companies (specifically record companies). The
same arguments they used against Grokster would
apply. For years they held the technology rights and
distribution contracts that essentialy made it impossible
for an individual artist to promote their product. I am a
card carrying member of ASCAP and have been a
professional musician for 20+ years. I have no
sympathy for companies that could probably also be
prosecuted under RICOH statutes (racketeering) as
well. In the past I wouldn't have been able to be heard
because I wasn't "signed" .ie pay for distribution and
radio promotion, advertising etc... through a high
percentage of the profits from my own hard work. If
that's not a classic "protection" scheme, call me stupid.
I'm not bitter about not being "signed" or not becoming
famous. I'm just sick of the little guy getting screwed! Is
it too much to ask for a level playing field so the real
"cream" rises to the top. Think about how many artists
"suck" and then consider how they got to be on the
medium that you find them. My guess is they got
"signed" to what was probably a lopsided "deal". Hootie
and the Blowfish only made $60,000 dollars on
Cracked Rear View. Gee...I wonder who made the rest
of the millions? I wonder what other options they had at
the time they signed....some "deal".
Posted by cidman2001 (223 comments )
Link Flag
Turn About is Fair Play and....
If the MPAA is found guilty of this, they get what they deserve.
Posted by Eskiegirl302 (82 comments )
Reply Link Flag
SCREW the
MPAA &#38; RIAA!!!!!!!!!!!!
Posted by paulsecic (298 comments )
Link Flag
Turn About is Fair Play and....
If the MPAA is found guilty of this, then they get just what they deserve!
Posted by Eskiegirl302 (82 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Not surprising. They certainly aren't above such tactics.
I don't think the MPAA and RIAA (aka MAFIA) are known for being the most scrupulous bunch. Especially after supporting legislation a few years ago that would have allowed them hack fileshares computers and do damage with impunity. I remember hearing rumors the they where shopping around for a virus to infect fileshares with (I don't how true this is).
Posted by unknown unknown (1951 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Yes it is true...
Back in the era of the Kazaa lawsuits the RIAA and
some record companies explored releasing infected
"shares" to damage people's property as a way to
thwart filesharing. Fast forward to today..Sony's
"rootkit" approach is a similar approach that also
caused public outcry. The rootkits did nothing malicious
mind you, but they did alter your system at the core
level without your knowledge...thus making it a virus by
definition. I'll reiterate...they never learn!
Posted by cidman2001 (223 comments )
Link Flag
We Don't Care How You Get It???
"One MPAA executive is quoted in Torrentspy's lawsuit as saying: 'We don't care how you get it,' referring to the alleged assignment to dig up information on Torrentspy."

Then fine, using your own legal reasoning, you shouldn't care where we get our files from, pirated or otherwise. Yes, pirating is illegal, but so is hacking, so who are you guys to say that we are doing something wrong and play it off like you guys are saints, when you too are breaking the law? Yes, I understand pirating is bad, I'm just saying they ain't no saints and therefor shouldn't be making these alligations as if they were such.
Posted by BushidoVatISC (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Hacking Is Illegal?
If when you say hacking you mean "cracking", the act of breaking into a system without authorization, than I agree... Hacking on the other hand is the act of Innovating, esp. in the computer world. Hackers write programs and solve problems, while crackers break trust and create problems.
Posted by RustInPeace (1 comment )
Link Flag
So they've finally been caught...
I'm sure this isn't even the worst thing they've done all year. Just like the music companies, if better movies were made maybe people would be more apt to pay $20 for them...
Posted by PCCRomeo (432 comments )
Reply Link Flag
One of the oldest story's in the book
One of the oldest story's in the book, learn about thine enemy, study thine weaknesses, and then proceed to kick him up up the backside, literally and figuratively, all basic legal 101 really!

By using extended third parties, you can apply the "I didn't do it , so don't blame me, it was the other guy!" Karl Rove Defence!

You expect MPAA, to play by the rules, when they can cheat at arm's length do you?

For after all the failed ENRON top exec's tried and failed recently, but it will be at least another 2 years or so before they finally get jailed or scam a new trial? with funds that were stolen from both the shareholders and the staff pension fund! But then ,our dear and near, mostly unloved corrupt ruling politician's do it to the voting public on a daily basis!

Oh well pay for what you get and get what you pay for!
Posted by heystoopid (691 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I heard that &lt;a href="http://sewelldirect.com/Gefen-Wireless-HDMI-Extender.asp"&gt;wireless hdmi&lt;/a&gt; is hack proof. Just because it is wireless, doesn't mean you can hack it!
Posted by gregpetersen (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
this hacker helps me a lot and change my school grades and my gpa ang i got good paying job now. i would recommend him. his email is superhackerx@gmail.com
Posted by elisabetha23 (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
 

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