MPAA’s Hacking Past Comes Back to Hunt

The MPAA isn't known for wasting opportunities to obtain information about BitTorrent sites and their users. In 2005 the MPAA paid around $15,000 to a hacker who obtained emails from TorrentSpy and The Pirate Bay. The case was heard in court and won by the MPAA, but this decision will soon be appealed.

mpaa torrentspy hackerIn an attempt to dig up dirt on the owner of TorrentSpy and the people behind The Pirate Bay, the MPAA hired a “hacker”, better known as Robert Anderson, to steal e-mail correspondence and trade secrets.

Anderson, a former associate of TorrentSpy owner Justin Bunnel, configured the TorrentSpy mail server to copy and forward all of the site’s email to his own Gmail account. The 34 pages of information he gathered was then sold to the MPAA for $15,000. TorrentSpy’s owner later sued the MPAA, arguing that they had spied on him illegally, but this case was lost.

The court ruled that the MPAA did not technically intercept them under the WireTap Act, although jurisprudence would suggest otherwise. TorrentSpy owner Justin Bunnel told TorrentFreak that he has filed a brief at the Court of Appeals and that the MPAA is expected to do the same in the near future. From then on it can take up to a year before the appeal is heard in court.

TorrentSpy is supported by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) that described the earlier decision as a “dangerous attempt to circumvent privacy laws.” Indeed, if upheld the ruling will basically legalize the unauthorized copying of other people’s emails, which raises serious privacy concerns.

The Pirate Bay, who were also the target of MPAA spying activities, have not taken any action. Instead, spokesman Peter Sunde laughed it away. “I think it’s amazingly funny if the MPAA bought information like that, expensively, and against the US law. Only proves their stupidity and that they have no case,” he told TorrentFreak earlier.

For the MPAA, losing the appeal might have some serious repercussions, especially for MPAA President Dan Glickman. Glickman is already highly criticized among Hollywood insiders for his lack of effectiveness. Since his contract renewal is due around the same time the hacker case appeal will be decided on, his job is on the line.

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