IFPI Witness Used To Work For IFPI -- Is That Such A Big Deal?

from the it's-not-that-crazy dept

I think that anyone who reads Techdirt on a regular basis would recognize that we're pretty harsh on the entertainment industry and the way it goes about its business. Yet, there seems to be an unrealistic expectation that we should obviously slam the entertainment industry for every move it makes -- and if not, we're somehow wrong. That's simply untrue. While, yes, it is easy to trash the incredibly dumb things the industry does all of the time, that doesn't mean you should automatically jump to conclusions about the entire industry. Last week, in writing about how a lead investigator on the case against The Pirate Bay had taken a job with Warner Brothers after the investigation concluded, I suggested this wasn't as ridiculous or "shocking" as some made it out to be. As long as there was no additional evidence of questionable activities, switching jobs isn't that surprising. The industry has a long history of hiring former police investigators and prosecutors for its anti-piracy activity. That, alone, shouldn't be considered strange or questionable -- but a lot of folks immediately assumed that something nefarious was up. In fact, one commenter even accused me of being on the take from Warner. Given just how frequently I've totally trashed Warner Music's activities (in just the last year alone), including the faux epiphany of boss Edgar Bronfman, this seems rather laughable.

However, it is important to recognize that not everything is a conspiracy theory, and not every move the industry makes is as ridiculous as it's made out to be by critics. Totally overreacting to these things doesn't help the case of those of us trying to help educate the industry on why their strategy of suing fans and blaming piracy for their own inability to adapt and grow is a problem. So, while I'm sure I'll get beaten up over it again, the latest report that an expert witness in the Danish lawsuit against The Pirate Bay used to work at the IFPI still doesn't seem particularly shocking or troublesome. TorrentFreak, who normally has excellent coverage, continually paints this news as "shocking." However, I just don't see it. It's not surprising that a guy who used to work on IFPI investigations would go on to work at an anti-piracy company. And, just because he does so, it doesn't mean that he's obviously biased on their side (I certainly don't think fondly of all of my ex-employers). The simple fact is that any expert witness has a bias. They're hired to help support one side of the case. So, of course he's going to present the IFPI's case in the best light. That's what he's paid to do -- and the court should take that into account. The fact that he used to work for the IFPI seems rather meaningless.


Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
    identicon
    SteveD, Apr 25th, 2008 @ 9:31am

    That's politics

    There’s a lot of grass-roots support in Sweden for the Pirate Bay, and a lot of people annoyed that the American entertainment industry seems to be telling their elected officials what to do.

    Even though the more rational commentators point out that there’s nothing wrong or illegal in what’s happened, that Swedish police are on the payroll of the entertainment industry is worth big points in the propaganda war. Given Torrent Freaks own bias it’s not surprising that they’d support this line.

     

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  2.  
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    Wayne, Apr 25th, 2008 @ 10:06am

    also

    I have read in a site that the guy is only going to Warner for a few months and then is going back to his position with the police. If I find the article I will try to provide the information.

     

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  3.  
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    Andy, Apr 25th, 2008 @ 10:19am

    Interviewing while investigating

    The part of TorrentFreak's article that is alarming, is the timing. He was interviewing with IFPI while he was doing the investigation. That throws a lot of doubt on his objectivity in the matter as well as on his impartiality. The fact is it looks like the IFPI is offering these people positions while they are doing the investigations, and once the investigations turn out favorably, they get the job. What if it was a "contract" position and the IFPI just gave them a check for $50,000? Then it's a bribe, but if it's a "position" with the IFPI it's ok?

     

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    Matt, Apr 25th, 2008 @ 10:43am

    like whenever I post

    I don't mean to exaggerate things when I post Mike, but as a matter of law enforcement objectivity comes into play a lot if you're magically working for the people that are trying to prosecute like this.

    As I said originally, the bigger issue is the timing.

    It's different when you switch jobs to a related field, than when you switch jobs to someone you're in a sense, working with/working for/they're your customer so to speak.

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 25th, 2008 @ 10:49am

    "Last week, in writing about how a lead investigator on the case against The Pirate Bay had taken a job with Warner Brothers after the investigation concluded, I suggested this wasn't as ridiculous or "shocking" as some made it out to be. As long as there was no additional evidence of questionable activities, switching jobs isn't that surprising."

    He is only working there for 6 months, then going back to the police, according to a second TorrentFreak article.

     

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  6.  
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    Mike (profile), Apr 25th, 2008 @ 11:00am

    Re: like whenever I post

    It's different when you switch jobs to a related field, than when you switch jobs to someone you're in a sense, working with/working for/they're your customer so to speak.

    I don't know. I've known plenty of people who eventually go work for customers. It's actually pretty common (I almost did it in one job I held). If you've worked with someone and know them, it's not too surprising that eventually you might go work with them.

     

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  7.  
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    Mike (profile), Apr 25th, 2008 @ 11:03am

    Re:

    He is only working there for 6 months, then going back to the police, according to a second TorrentFreak article.

    Again, this doesn't seem that ridiculous to me. Warner Music is trying to have a stronger anti-piracy force. While I think that's *bad strategy* on the part of Warner, it doesn't surprise that it would bring on someone who had been a police inspector in anti-piracy to work with the team on a contract basis for a few months to help build up their capabilities.

    Again, I'll be 100% clear: I think Warner's strategy of suing fans and failing to embrace file sharing and free music is one of the all time most boneheaded corporate strategic decisions. But hiring a police investigator to improve this process, no matter how dumb that process is, just isn't that out of the ordinary.

     

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  8.  
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    Andrew, Apr 25th, 2008 @ 11:45am

    Re: Re: like whenever I post

    Again, you're not comparing the positions held. Were you called upon in the previous position to be an impartial investigator before you joined the side of one of the people you were investigating before?

    This isn't just a consulting job where you do work, and then get hired by the the consulting company's client. The person's job was to be an investigator. He then started interviewing with people who would be all for manufacturing evidence in order to ensure a guilty verdict.

     

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  9.  
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    A chicken passeth by, Apr 25th, 2008 @ 12:00pm

    The word is MORALS...

    In a case involving 2 equally guilty or innocent parties, a fair judge must not be biased against any one of them... this investigator fails it on all counts...

     

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  10.  
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    panda_3, Apr 25th, 2008 @ 12:55pm

    oh, no problem here, not one, we promise!

    say, you have a huge fight with your neighbor, the police got involved, and he is going to sue you.

    A policeman investigated the whole brawl and secured testimony and collected evidence and his "facts" will be the impartial evidence in court.
    Now this policeman gets a job with your neighbor, much better paid than as a policeman. He actually had job interviews and negotiations during the investigation.

    And now you want to seriously tell me, that this was legally OK?????

    That's like the CSI sleeping with the murder suspect: "No, your honor I couldn't find any fingerprints on that knife!"

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 25th, 2008 @ 2:02pm

    Re: Re:

    I have to disagree.

    Warner hired the Key investigator of the case against the pirate bay, with negotiation occurring while he was investigating. When it got out to the public, he quickly removed the information from his website. The time he was hired was right after he finished the investigation, but before he made his key testimony in court. This is also only a temporary job, as it has been made clear that he plans to return to the police force in 6 months, and the only time that he is working with Warner Brothers is while he is working on this case. Now I admit that hiring a police investigator would be nothing unusual for such a company, even for a short period of time, however in this case, there are plenty of reasons to believe that there was more behind the scenes. Even if the original deal was unrelated to their case, which I have problems believing, it is hard to believe that neither party did not have this in mind when they were negotiating while he was investigating The Pirate Bay. I also have a hard time believing that his new job at Warner Brothers, even if temporary, will not influence his testimony in the criminal trial against the people behind The Pirate Bay.

     

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  12.  
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    Mike (profile), Apr 25th, 2008 @ 3:16pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Warner hired the Key investigator of the case against the pirate bay, with negotiation occurring while he was investigating.

    No one has yet presented *any* evidence to suggest that the negotiation occurred while the investigation was ongoing.

    If that did occur, it's a different story, but I've yet to see a single piece of proof on that. So far, it's all been conjecture.

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 25th, 2008 @ 4:06pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    I suppose so, this was a flaw on my part, as I do not have evidence other than speculation based on the fact that typically it takes more than a short period of time in order to get a job of this nature (which speculation lead to others coming to similar conclusions, Torrent Freak being an example) and Warner Brothers refuses to comment on when negotiations were done, as they will only say that at no point during the investigation was the investigator paid by Warner Brothers, which hints at negotiation before the investigation ended. However even if no negotiation was done until the day after the investigation ended, it is hard to believe that this negotiation was done independent of his upcoming testimony for the trial, especially since this job only lasts for a six month period which he will be involved within this case, and it is also difficult to believe that his new job at Warner Brothers will not effect his testimony in the upcoming criminal trail, which is going to be the most important testimony against The Pirate Bay.

     

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  14.  
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    Neverhood, Apr 26th, 2008 @ 1:05am

    Cynical to say all witnesses are biased

    The point in this case is that the guy who used to work for IFPI was supposed to be an un-biased, independent expert witness, and the ruling was partly based on this fact.

    When a witness claims to be independent in court, and evidence later shows that it is clearly not the case, then of cause the ruling has not been made on truthful grounds.

    I think it is cynical to say that all witnesses are always automatically biased.

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 26th, 2008 @ 9:06am

    Re: Re: like whenever I post

    I've known plenty of people who eventually go work for customers.
    You see, that's the problem, Mike. Warner Brothers isn't supposed to be the a "customer" of the Police. I know you believe in the free market for everything but the police aren't supposed to be "for sale".

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 26th, 2008 @ 9:23am

    PI vs PI

    Last week, in writing about how a lead investigator on the case against The Pirate Bay had taken a job with Warner Brothers after the investigation concluded, I suggested this wasn't as ridiculous or "shocking" as some made it out to be.
    I note how you fail to mention that this "investigator" was a "police inspector". That's a big difference from a private investigator doing the same thing and it suggests that the police were acting as an agent of a private entity rather than the public.

    So, while I'm sure I'll get beaten up over it again, the latest report that an expert witness in the Danish lawsuit against The Pirate Bay used to work at the IFPI still doesn't seem particularly shocking or troublesome.
    That's a different situation. "Private Investigators" are different from "Police Inspectors". Private investigators are expected to be for hire, the police aren't. It's amazing that you are so blinded by free market economics, which I generally support, that you can't see that some things aren't supposed to have a price.

     

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  17.  
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    Mike (profile), Apr 26th, 2008 @ 10:38am

    Re: Cynical to say all witnesses are biased

    When a witness claims to be independent in court, and evidence later shows that it is clearly not the case, then of cause the ruling has not been made on truthful grounds.

    Again, how is the fact that he *used* to work there evidence of bias? There are plenty of places I used to work, and I certainly don't represent their views any more.

    I think what was more telling is the place that he *currently* worked, which was an anti-piracy organization. That bias was clear and in the open.

     

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  18.  
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    Mike (profile), Apr 26th, 2008 @ 10:39am

    Re: PI vs PI

    I note how you fail to mention that this "investigator" was a "police inspector".

    I figured it was clear from the fact that this was a criminal case involving the state. I'm sorry if you felt it was unclear.

    Private investigators are expected to be for hire, the police aren't.

    Gov't sector employees are often hired by the private sector. Again, this doesn't seem to shocking to me. The RIAA/IFPI/MPAA have a long history of hiring former law enforcement officials.

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 28th, 2008 @ 4:53pm

    Re: Re: PI vs PI

    I figured it was clear from the fact that this was a criminal case involving the state. I'm sorry if you felt it was unclear.
    It wasn't just unclear, it was misleading.

    Gov't sector employees are often hired by the private sector. Again, this doesn't seem to shocking to me. The RIAA/IFPI/MPAA have a long history of hiring former law enforcement officials.


    You see nothing wrong with police officers accepting private rewards for using their official position to push cases on behalf of private entities? Shame on you.

     

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  20.  
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    Catherine, Apr 28th, 2008 @ 6:22pm

    Caesar's wife must be above suspicion

    Mike, while I agree with you on the witness issue (and generally on these issues) I can't disagree with you more heartily on the existence of impropriety in the investigator’s appointment.

    The employment of people with official power by interested companies has unfortunately become all too common and seriously compromises the independence of our public institutions

    I’m from Sydney, Australia and our state (New South Wales) is rife with this sort of recruitment. A number of notable politicians have made decisions on major public works and then when they retire, get snapped up straight away by the company that won the contract for said public work on very high salaries. Corruption can’t be proved but it sure smells of it. This has been of such concern that there’s a push to prevent politicians from immediately being employed by companies that were involved their past portfolio.

    The other issue with these appointments isn’t just the suggestion of influence when in government but the assurance of influence once that politician has left their elected position. They remain friends with their previous colleagues and are likely to exert influence because that’s just how human relations work – and given the high price of their new salaries, it is hard to believe that this sort of backdoor lobbying is not expected as a job requirement.

    While this policeman does not have the vast amount of legislative power afforded to the New South Wales government, he still was responsible (and may be again if the above reports are correct) for performing an important task where independence is paramount.

    It is irrelevant that the music industry has a history of hiring ex-police, what’s relevant here are the circumstances of this case. And in some respects, it also doesn’t matter if his negotiations actually took place during the investigations or after their conclusion - his appointment was so soon after that it could only lead to the sort of speculation that has happened. In his position, that was something he had the responsibility to avoid. One need not rely on conspiracy theories – his actions were, on the face of it, inappropriate.

    Any such actions that erode confidence in the impartiality of the officers representing our public institutions also erode confidence in those institutions. That confidence is vital for a free and democratic state, because it allows us to trust our public officials and believe we have participation. But the biggest blow to our freedom and democracy is when erosions of that confidence are not censured by the public, because then we create the precedent to permit more in the future. So I hope there was some criticism of it in Sweden for the benefit of her citizens.

    On a side note, the music industry really needs to stop employing cops and start employing more talented people who actually want to innovate their distribution and products (and give them the power to do so). It’s no wonder they are in the situation they are where they are consistently looking for more ways to ‘police’ their customers rather than better serve them.

     

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