Wired has up an article with a man named Robert Anderson, who was recruited by the MPAA in 2005 to inform on people in the BitTorrent community.
In a tell-all interview with the site, Anderson explains how the powerful media organization encouraged him to obtain the information they were looking for:
According to Anderson, the MPAA told him: ‘We would need somebody like you. We would give you a nice paying job, a house, a car, anything you needed…. if you save Hollywood for us you can become rich and powerful.’ In 2005, the MPAA paid Anderson $15,000 for inside information about TorrentSpy — information at the heart of a copyright-infringement lawsuit brought by the MPAA against TorrentSpy of Los Angeles. The material is also the subject of a wiretapping countersuit against the MPAA brought by TorrentSpy’s founder, Justin Bunnell, who alleges the information was obtained illegally.
The MPAA does not dispute it paid Anderson for the sensitive information, but insists that it had no idea that Anderson stole the data. “The MPAA obtains information from third parties only if it believes the evidence has been collected legally,” says MPAA spokeswoman Elizabeth Kaltman.
The MPAA’s use of Anderson is one of a series of controversies the movie industry is confronting in its zero-tolerance war on piracy. MediaDefender, a California company that tracks and disrupts file sharing of movies and music, was reported to Swedish authorities last month by The Pirate Bay, after an internet leak revealed the extent to which MediaDefender pollutes file-sharing services with fake, decoy content. And an executive at a national theater chain successfully pressed New Jersey authorities in August to prosecute a teenager for filming 20 seconds of a movie at a theater to show to her little brother later.
That suit is ongoing and contentious. Cooper ruled last May that TorrentSpy must begin saving the internet addresses and download activity of its U.S.-based users, and turning over the information to the MPAA in pretrial discovery. In response, TorrentSpy began blocking U.S. users, and made changes on its site to protect user privacy — drawing a fresh burst of outrage in legal filings by MPAA lawyers earlier this month.
The MPAA’s Kaltman says the court’s decision to throw out Bunnell’s lawsuit against the MPAA left no doubt that Garfield’s relationship with Anderson was aboveboard. Kaltman points out that the court took note of the contract language between the MPAA and Anderson that represented any data from Anderson as being lawfully obtained.
But Paul Ohm, a University of Colorado Law School scholar specializing in computer crime, is skeptical. “It’s hard to say with a straight face that you can obtain that legally,” said Ohm. “Ethical red bells should have been going off.”