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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Filed Under: copyright, file sharing, legality, mpaa
Companies: mpaa, torrentspy


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  1. identicon
    Aragorn, 19 Dec 2007 @ 11:17am

    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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