Earlier this year, five member companies of the MPAA filed a lawsuit against the Hotfile file-hosting service and ever since the parties have been battling in court.
Last month we reported that the movie studios had requested a substantial amount of information from the file-hosting service, including IP addresses of uploaders and downloaders, and the company’s source code.
Hotfile on their turn, has recently requested information on the anti-piracy strategies of the Hollywood movie studios and the third-party companies they work with. The Florida based file-hosting service says it needs this information in order to mount a proper defense and has subpoenaed Disney, Twentieth Century Fox, Universal, Columbia and Warner, as well as five anti-piracy vendors.
Among other things, Hotfile wants to know how the movie studios find copyrighted material online, what films they give priority and when and where they look for infringing copies.
The MPAA studios, however, do not want to give up this information and have asked the court for a protective order. They argue that disclosing their anti-piracy strategies and protocols could have disastrous consequences, as it would make ‘pirates’ even smarter than they already are.
“Defendants have demanded all documents showing how Plaintiffs and their vendors locate infringing material online. In essence, Defendants are like the fox asking for the combination to the lock on the hen-house door,” the studios explain to the U.S. District Court of Southern Florida.
The request for a protective order is explained in a lengthy document which is accompanied by supporting letters from the anti-piracy chiefs of the five Hollywood studios. The general message is that their anti-piracy strategies should remain secret to prevent an avalanche of piracy.
“Plaintiffs are engaged in a continuous cat-and-mouse game with persons engaged in the unauthorized exploitation of Plaintiffs’ works online. These infringers are often highly sophisticated, and routinely restructure their services or make changes to their modus operandi to evade or decrease the effectiveness of the studios’ anti piracy methods,” the MPAA members write.
To dramatize their point the studios draw an analogy between copyright infringement and drug trafficking.
“In many ways, this is no different than the prejudice to law enforcement if they were compelled to disclose to drug traffickers where law enforcement agents were conducting their stakeouts, or their points of interdiction, or the confidential informants they were using, or the details of the technology they used to detect smugglers’ routes into the United States.”
The same drug analogy is brought up again later to emphasize how severe the consequences could be should Hotfile be given access to information on the studio’s anti-piracy strategies.
“Continuing the drug trafficking analogy, clearly law enforcement efforts would be severely compromised if criminals knew the time windows in which law enforcement intended to step up investigative activities, what particular drugs they would be prioritizing for enforcement, which suspected dealers police were declining to arrest in order to avoid compromising ongoing investigations, and what levels of possession would trigger enforcement.”
The MPAA members want the U.S. District Court to issue a protective order and prevent Hotfile from obtaining any anti-piracy information from the studios directly, or from any of the five anti-piracy outfits (DtecNet, BayTSP, Peer Media, OpSec Security and MiMTiD) they work with.
The movie studios are only willing to send Hotfile copies of the DMCA notices they previously sent to the file-hosting service.
The U.S. District Court will review the request of the MPAA studios and a decision is expected to follow in the near future. Meanwhile, everyone interested in both piracy and anti-piracy strategies across the world will be rubbing their hands in anticipation of the forthcoming revelations, should there be any.