TorrentSpy Loses To The MPAA… But For The Wrong Reasons

from the bad-news dept

TorrentSpy has lost the first round of its case against the MPAA, but the details suggest that it’s for all the wrong reasons. TorrentSpy, of course, is like many other torrent trackers: it’s a search engine. While the MPAA went after TorrentSpy claiming that it was violating copyright laws like Grokster/Morpheus, TorrentSpy pointed out (correctly) that the Supreme Court only said that service providers who actively encourage copyright infringement can be held liable. Instead, TorrentSpy noted, it was a search engine, just like Google — which is quite accurate. However, the court seemed to have difficulty understanding this — and when the court ordered TorrentSpy to spy on its users (against TorrentSpy’s own terms of service), the company instead chose to cut off US users. This seemed quite admirable and reasonable. It was, in fact, a lot more admirable than the MPAA, who hired someone to hack into TorrentSpy’s servers and pass on internal emails. However, it appears that TorrentSpy’s decision to not spy on its users and to block access to US users is part of what caused it to lose the case. The ruling isn’t on the merits of the actual copyright claim, but on the claim that TorrentSpy destroyed evidence — such as the IP addresses of its users. There does appear to be some additional egregious destruction of evidence from TorrentSpy beyond just the IP addresses of users — which was incredibly stupid for the company. That certainly hurt the company’s position. However, that does not address the merits of the original lawsuit. The MPAA, of course, is claiming this is a huge win, but that’s just its usual press release quote and has little to connect it to reality: which is that the MPAA won this case on a technicality rather than the merits. TorrentSpy plans to appeal, so this is hardly over — but the destruction of evidence will hurt the rest of TorrentSpy’s position, no matter how reasonable it may have been.

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Companies: mpaa, torrentspy

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Comments on “TorrentSpy Loses To The MPAA… But For The Wrong Reasons”

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17 Comments
Iron Chef says:

Thoughts on the RIAA and MPAA

Consider a big company based on paper. They have little concept of the internet, no idea how moving to the internet could increase their business. Chances are, it took until 2001 for them to have a website. Chances are it was probably outsourced at the time to “create a presense.”

So… So… Do they understand techology? Maybe not, as they were originally built as a distribution channel. Now that the rules have changed, they need to start thinking about what they have could create value to other organizations and people who are willing to license their content.

Does the current process enable that?

Could it?
Would it?
Maybe?

Then create a subsidary that would enable licensing it.

Then it could.
Then it would.
Then you can capitalize on new talent.

linuxamp says:

If I recall correctly the original MPAA request was to turn over all IP addresses however since TS didn’t log IP addresses (at the time) but instead simply held logs in volatile RAM there was no way to do so. Could that have been the “destruction of evidence” they’re claiming?

I suppose it could also have been for the dropping of packets from US IP addresses. Does dropping packets == destruction of evidence?

Iron Chef says:

Re: Re:

If I recall correctly the original MPAA request was to turn over all IP addresses however since TS didn’t log IP addresses (at the time) but instead simply held logs in volatile RAM there was no way to do so. Could that have been the “destruction of evidence” they’re claiming?

I suppose it could also have been for the dropping of packets from US IP addresses. Does dropping packets == destruction of evidence?

You bring up some good points, but the main problem isn’t technical, but it’s business in perspective.

The Business needs to ask for a way to license IP instead of fighting it. I guarantee you that the opearaional costs are 100x higher when you feed it to the lawyers, especially when you factor in loss of value in branding. Has anyone seen Sony recently?

I’m appauled at the nickle-and-diming. Consider efforts from Maddox It sickens me that everything has gone so profit driven. Loosen up a little. You’ll get more by investing in a community than you will ever get from suing.

When the lawyers get involved everyone is a victim.

General Eskimo says:

Re: UPDATE TO LAST COMMENT

A technicality (which is notable considering that we are talking about technicalities)… but “100x less” doesn’t really make sense, although it is generally incorrectly equated to mean 1/100th (while it should actually be -9900% the cost, which in turn would mean the costs would actually be massive profits… which would change the playing field a lot).

Darksurf says:

not a fair trial?

How can a US court make a ruling to spy on people. That is illegal. If a Jury/Judge doesn’t understand the trial then how can they make a ruling? You can’t just take any ‘uneducated’ person off the street, and ask them their opinion on the development of the quad core phenom! They won’t know what the hell is going on!

So don’t put untechnological minds in a damn court room with a hearing over technological problems! They don’t know what they or anyone else is talking about, so they just assume. And everyone knows what assuming does.

General Eskimo says:

Hey...

Hey, why don’t we do what I have been advocating for 8 years? DESTROY THE MPAA!

^And Darksurf, I agree that it is wrong to spy on people, but it is arguably a public place where people are publicly committing crimes. So claiming that spying there is illegal is like claiming you can’t put cameras in ally ways to try and catch rapists and murderers. Obviously, though, it is true that they really have no idea what is going on, and (in my opinion) should be locked in solitary confinement for the rest of their pathetic lives for their absurd level of incompetence. Well, maybe that is a bit far… because their bodies are quite an asset even if their minds are not. So, instead, they should be worked in slave labor until they die, and then harvested for organs to supplement those of us who actually move society forward (instead of sabotaging its advancement).

I keep saying it and it keeps coming true!
90/10

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Hey...

“Hey, why don’t we do what I have been advocating for 8 years? DESTROY THE MPAA!”

I’d agree normally, but they seem to be doing a great job of doing that themselves. As ever, TorrentSpy is only one small part of a larger problem that they cannot possibly control. While they’re toasting themselves over this type of case, they’re losing their business from right under their noses. Between people who consciously boycott their products, to their idiotic focussing on CD and mobile platforms, to artists old and new who refuse to sign MPAA contracts and go independent, they’re not going to last a whole lot longer.

Shane C. (user link) says:

Jurisdiction?

IHNRTA, however I have been following the case.

My only question resonates that of Damien in questioning jurisdiction. If Torrent Spy operates outside the US, and is actively blocking customers from the US (thus they apparently don’t have a business presence here, physically, or virtually) how is it that they are bound by US laws?

For that matter, why did they even respond to a US court?

Shane

Aragorn says:

Details

This article was posted on Wired.com (hardly a pro-MPAA source) yesterday. http://blog.wired.com/27bstroke6/2007/12/judge-terminate.html

Some excerpts:

“TorrentSpy allegedly deleted “hundreds or thousands” of postings on the TorrentSpy forums referencing copyright infringement. On March 6th, 2006, a manager posted a private message to the site’s volunteer moderators warning, “We need to make sure that these forums stay clear of anything related to piracy. … I’d even recommend using the search engine to find past threads that may hurt us.”

“The court was also put off by TorrentSpy’s anonymization of user IP addresses in its logs. In April, the company turned over user IP addresses in pre-trial discovery that had been shorn of the last octet, making them useless for tracking down users with any certainty. The MPAA produced forum threads indicating that records of full IP addresses had existed.

“The Court concludes that Defendants were well aware of their obligation to preserve those addresses in their entirety. The deletion of the fourth octet of these addresses was willful.”

Sounds like obstruction of justice to me.

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