July 31, 2007 10:18 AM PDT

TorrentSpy lawyer battling 'copyright extremism'

(continued from previous page)

After the MPAA sued TorrentSpy, Rothken filed a countersuit and accused the MPAA of corporate espionage. He alleged in the filing that the MPAA hired a hacker to steal confidential information to help its case against TorrentSpy. That suit is still pending. In 2003, when the RIAA announced it was offering amnesty to file sharers, Rothken dubbed the offer "shamnesty" and sued for deceptive trade practices.

The RIAA ended up settling the case, winding down the program, and paying Rothken's attorney fees.

His aggressiveness is partly what attracts guys like Fung and TorrentSpy's founder, Justin Bunnell.

"I'm all for copyright protection but I take issue with copyright extremism."
--Ira Rothken, copyright attorney

"I think a lot of entertainment litigators aren't used to going up against smart and committed opponents," said von Lohmann, who defended Streamcast Networks after it was sued for copyright infringement in 2001. "Many of them represent big movie studios and when they lean on small companies, they are used to getting them to roll over. That's just not the kind of guy Ira is."

But Rothken denies that he's out to torch copyright law. While he makes headlines for opposing copyright owners, Rothken is himself a stakeholder in the copyright system. A lucrative part of his Novato, Calif.-based law practice is negotiating licensing deals for video game companies.

"I'm in no way on a crusade against copyright law," Rothken said. "I would never say that we should do away with copyright protection. Strong copyright laws are essential for a vibrant and creative economy. That said, I'm hoping that there will be an evolution for U.S. intellectual property law."

It's not unusual for a copyright attorney to represent owners as well as those accused of infringing. But the dual roles have sometimes placed Rothken in peculiar situations.

Some might even wonder if Rothken's video game clients object to his representing accused copyright violators.

"I certainly didn't until I saw one of my games on one of these sites," said a laughing Dan Connors, CEO of Telltale Games, creator of Sam & Max and other video games. "It wasn't too bad because Ira made them take it down."

Rothken, who negotiates publishing and licensing deals for Telltale, acknowledges there's far more money in representing copyright holders. Nonetheless, he's been writing code since he was a kid and believes in innovation. Another motivation is the late Jack Valenti.

It was Valenti, the silver-haired former MPAA director, who testified before a congressional committee in 1982 and compared the VCR to the Boston strangler.

"Hollywood has made billions from video recorders and the home rental business," Rothken said. "They wouldn't have seen any of that money had they succeeded in killing that technology."

He argues that while the services he represents may be favored by pirates, the technologies also have legitimate uses.

"I'm all for copyright protection but I take issue with copyright extremism," said Rothken. "Hollywood says that these sites can be used for infringing purposes and therefore should be snuffed. We say 'Wait a second, this site can be used for noninfringing uses as well.' What we're after is a better balance."

Previous page
Page 1 | 2

See more CNET content tagged:
ReplayTV, lawyer, RIAA, founder, suit


Join the conversation!
Add your comment
They should put the RAM in an envelope and send it to the MPAA lawyers!
Does anyone here this "turn over what's in the RAM" business? How can it be turned over if the content changes millions of times a second and don't exist exept when the computer is on?

Should the telephone companies start recording all telephone calls because they might be ordered to turn over the content of the wires?
Posted by hadaso (468 comments )
Reply Link Flag
They should certainly RAM something somewhere relating to the MPAA. The MPAA stifle creativity and innovation. Why oh why didn't the Framers put in a constitutional clause to give the people the same protection from big business as they get from the state.
Posted by perfectblue97 (326 comments )
Link Flag
what's next are they going to go door to door to look at your computer.Years ago i had a tuntable and would copy music to my cassette deck,what's the difference.Movies and music can be had in many ways.Next they are going to be telling me i can't copy my 20 and 30 year old albums to tape or cd.
Posted by bwtanker (36 comments )
Reply Link Flag
You can and can't.
The Copyright law states that you can't copy someone's Intellectual property without their consent, so you can't, but it also says that you can make a copy for personal archival reasons. So you can. The question here is: How can they say that we can and can't on the same breath? It's either one or the other, how can it be both?
Posted by thedreaming (573 comments )
Link Flag
Where do record and film firms get their powers?
These industries get their immense, nasty, and overreaching
powers from congress. Which candidate for president believes that
the constitution does NOT empower congress to enrich and
empower the entertainment industry at the expense of consumers?
Only Ron Paul. So, vote!
Posted by nicmart (1829 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Ron Paul for president. If you don't vote for him, you have little basis for your complaints.

Of course, I just want to see copyright shrivel up and die, and will not cease my efforts until it does, but in the mean time, we should try to keep as many of our freedoms as possible.
Posted by ethana2 (348 comments )
Link Flag
Good question - bad answer
You've completely missed on your interpretation. They get their power from money. In other words, from us! We buy their product, they make billions and they funnel a small percentage (but still a lot of cash) straight into the pockets of Congress and the Senate and purchase representatives left and right.

Americans still seem to think they live in a Democracy - they are, of course, wrong. They live in a capitalistic state with some left-over trappings of Democracy still remaining, but make no mistake - the power lies in the hands that has enough money to buy politicians, and that means the movie studios, music industry, healthcare and insurance industries, big oil...

Until and unless a way is found to separate the lawmakers from the money, that's the way things will remain.
Posted by lorcro2000 (71 comments )
Link Flag
Subset of a bigger problem....
One real problem is how easy it is for wealthy parties to "win" court cases (force "settlements") solely because they can litigate the smaller party into bankruptcy. There should be a laws that mandate a level playing field, and keeping the legal budgets to something both parties can afford.
Posted by CagedAnimal (67 comments )
Reply Link Flag
that's justice for all for you
nuff said
Posted by dondarko (261 comments )
Link Flag
What the MPAA and RIAA are truly afraid of.
We are approaching a day when any random person will have the same creative and distributive tools that the big studios have. When that day comes, we will no longer need the gate keepers.
Posted by ralfthedog (1589 comments )
Reply Link Flag

Join the conversation

Add your comment

The posting of advertisements, profanity, or personal attacks is prohibited. Click here to review our Terms of Use.

What's Hot



RSS Feeds

Add headlines from CNET News to your homepage or feedreader.