MPAA wins copyright case against TorrentSpy

By , IDG News Service |  Business

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) has won a lawsuit against
the operators of TorrentSpy.com, with the judge ruling in favor of the MPAA
because the Web site operators tampered with evidence.

In a ruling that could have implications for the privacy of Web site users,
Judge Florence-Marie Cooper of the U.S. District Court for the Central District
of California, ruled that TorrentSpy has infringed MPAA copyrights in a default
judgment against the operators of the site.

Cooper, in a ruling made public Monday, agreed with the MPAA that defendants
Justin Bunnell, Forrest Parker, Wes Parker and Valence Media had destroyed evidence
after another judge had ordered them to keep server logs, user IP (Internet
Protocol) addresses and other information. TorrentSpy billed itself as a central
location to find files distributed on BitTorrent P-to-P (peer-to-peer) networks.

The defendants' conduct was "obstreperous," Cooper wrote in her decision.
"They have engaged in widespread and systematic efforts to destroy evidence
and have provided false testimony under oath in a effort to hide evidence of
such destruction," she wrote.

TorrentSpy had located its servers in the Netherlands and argued that Dutch
law protected them from having to turn over server logs and other information.
In May, U.S. Magistrate Judge Jacqueline Chooljian ruled that TorrentSpy must
preserve server data logs held in random access memory, or RAM.

That decision was widely criticized as being an unreasonable standard because
information held in RAM is temporary, but Cooper, in her new ruling, said TorrentSpy
destroyed or altered several types of evidence, including user IP addresses,
discussion forum postings about the trading of movies and moderator identities.
"A substantial number of items of evidence have been destroyed," she
wrote. "Defendants were on notice that this information would be of importance
in this case."

TorrentSpy's lawyer Ira Rothken said his client had concerns about protecting
users' privacy. TorrentSpy will appeal Cooper's decision, he said.

"It's not a ruling on the merits of the case," he said. "One
person's willful destruction of evidence is another person's willful attempt
to comply with customer privacy policies."

The ruling, if it stands, could expose private information about Web site users
in many civil lawsuits, Rothken added. "This doesn't apply only to TorrentSpy,
but to anyone who operates a Web site," he said.

A ruling on damages in case will happen at a later date.

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