By Greg Sandoval
Staff Writer, CNET News.com
May 24, 2006
The Motion Picture Association of America hired a hacker to steal
information from a company that the MPAA has accused of helping
copyright violators, according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday.
The lawsuit (click for PDF ), filed Wednesday in U.S. District
Court for the Central District of California by Torrentspy.com parent
Valence Media, doesn't identify the man the company says was
approached by an MPAA executive. But the suit calls the man a former
associate of one of the plaintiffs who was asked to retrieve private
information on Torrentspy.com, a search engine that directs users to
Among Torrentspy's claims are that the man who the MPAA allegedly paid
$15,000 to steal e-mail correspondence and trade secrets has admitted
his role in the plot and is cooperating with the company.
"It is a Hollywood drama, what happened here," Ira Rothken,
Torrentspy's attorney, said in a telephone interview Wednesday
The allegations come three months after the MPAA filed suit against
Torrentspy and other Torrent directories for allegedly making it
easier for pirates to distribute movies over the Internet.
"These claims (by Torrentspy) are false," Kori Bernards, the MPAA's
vice president of corporate communications, said in an e-mail to CNET
News.com. "Torrentspy is trying to obscure the facts to hide the fact
that they are facilitating thievery. We are confident that our lawsuit
against them will be successful because the law is on our side."
The suit filed by the MPAA was a departure from the organization's
previous strategy of going after Web sites that were directly involved
in facilitating file sharing. By suing Torrentspy, as well as such
companies as IsoHunt, BTHub.com, and TorrentBox.com, MPAA was
declaring that it saw little difference between the the file-swapping
networks that the studios have aggressively taken to court and those
companies that direct people to works that may be protected by
One MPAA executive is quoted in Torrentspy's lawsuit saying: "We don't
care how you get it," referring to the alleged assignement to retrieve
information on Torrentspy.
Some of the information that the man allegedly pilfered included a
spreadsheet containing Torrentspy income and expenses from January to
June of 2005, copies of private e-mails between Torrentspy employees,
detailed information on the company's servers, and billing
information, according to a copy of the filing obtained by CNET
Torrentspy alleges in the suit that the man, who the company refers to
as the "informant" has provided documents that prove the nature of his
relationship with the MPAA, including a written agreement signed by
the hacker and an MPAA executive, said Torrentspy attorney Rothken.
"We have very significant proof of wrongdoing and the MPAA's
involvement," Rothken said. "We think it's ironic for the MPAA to
claim that they are protecting the rights of the movie studios and
then go out and pirate other people's property."
Rothken said that the MPAA also paid the hacker to "gather nonpublic
information" about other Torrent sites. Rothken declined to specify
Following this, the "informant" had a change of heart and contacted
"By doing that, he's mitigating the harm that he did," Rothken said.
"He is also allowing us to get a remedy against the MPAA and to help
us stop them from using the stolen data."
Torrentspy has asked the court for unspecified damages and a jury
CNET News.com's Joris Evers contributed to this report.
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