MPAA Executive Tampered With IFPI Evidence in Internet Piracy Case

Earlier this month Finland’s largest ever Internet piracy case ended with four men being found guilty of copyright infringement and two being exonerated. The case involved a so-called 'topsite' called Angel Falls and had an interesting twist. During the trial it was revealed that evidence gathered by a local anti-piracy group and the IFPI was also handed to a "senior MPAA executive" who tampered with the evidence before handing it to the police.

evidenceMore than five years ago an investigation was launched into ‘Angel Falls’ a system of servers used by the so-called ‘warez scene’ for storing and distributing copyright content.

Following an undercover investigation, in 2007 rightsholders filed an official complaint and two months later the site was raided by authorities in Oulu, Finland. A total of 15 servers were discovered containing a range of copyrighted material including music, movies, TV shows, video games and software.

Represented by anti-piracy group CIAPC (known locally as TTVK), rightsholders said that the individuals running the Angel Falls topsite had caused damages to their businesses totaling six million euros. The developing copyright case was to be the largest in Finland’s history.

Earlier this month the trial concluded. Four men were found guilty and two were cleared as per our earlier report. However, according to Herkko Hietanen, a defense lawyer in the case from the Turre Legal lawfirm, the case had a somewhat interesting feature.

During the trial an IFPI investigator was called upon as a witness, but during his testimony something unusual came to light.

“After his presentation the defense counsels pointed out how the information shown on the video of his investigations did not match with the printed log files,” Hietanen informs TorrentFreak.

The video, a screencast of the investigation, showed a particular username accessing an Angel Falls FTP server. However, the corresponding text log for the same event showed a completely different username.

“When the IFPI investigator was asked about this he acknowledged that the names did not match. He said that the Finnish anti-piracy people and IFPI had collected the information together, but there was also an MPAA executive in the room while the evidence gathering took place,” Hietanen explains.

The IFPI investigator was then asked to reveal the name of the MPAA executive. He declined, but did offer an explanation for the inconsistencies in the evidence.

In an apparent attempt to hide the identity of one of their spies, the MPAA executive edited the evidence gathered during the session.

“The IFPI investigator handed over the evidence material to the MPAA senior executive who then changed the text file before the anti-piracy organization handed over the evidence to the Finnish police,” Hietanen says.

No one from the MPAA informed the defense that the edits had been made and the tampering was revealed at the worst possible time – during the trial. This resulted in the prosecutor ordering a police investigation into the changes that had been made.

“Police then proceeded by comparing the ‘work copy’ that the IFPI investigator produced with the material that police and the defending counsels had received. Police found out that the material had differences in over 10 files,” Hietanen reveals.

Considering the effort that had gone into the case, the outcome was somewhat of a disappointment. Two men were completely cleared and the four who were found guilty escaped with suspended jail sentences. The six million euros in damages claimed by the rightsholders was reduced to just 45,000 euros.

The fate of the MPAA investigator is unclear, but since his username was revealed in court it seems likely that if he used the same one on other sites, that will no longer be possible.

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