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MPAA Executive Tampers With Evidence In Piracy Case 156

Posted by Soulskill
from the fitting-the-narrative dept.
An anonymous reader writes "TorrentFreak reports on an internet piracy case from Finland, which saw four men found guilty and fined €45,000. During the trial, the defense attorney took note of inconsistencies in log files used as evidence against the men. An investigator for international recording industry organization IFPI revealed after questioning that the files had been tampered with. He said an MPAA executive was present when the evidence gathering took place, and altered the files to hide the identity of 'one of their spies.' 'No one from the MPAA informed the defense that the edits had been made and the tampering was revealed at the worst possible time – during the trial. This resulted in the prosecutor ordering a police investigation into the changes that had been made. "Police then proceeded by comparing the 'work copy' that the IFPI investigator produced with the material that police and the defending counsels had received. Police found out that the material had differences in over 10 files," Hietanen reveals.'"
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MPAA Executive Tampers With Evidence In Piracy Case

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  • And... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jamstar7 (694492) on Saturday April 27, 2013 @08:05PM (#43571005)
    ... this surprises anyone how, exactly?
    • Re:And... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 27, 2013 @08:25PM (#43571087)
      Unsurprising things make the news all the time. It doesn't have to "surprise anyone" in order to write an article about it.
    • I'm surprised (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 27, 2013 @08:33PM (#43571121)

      that it hasn't been swept under the rug

    • by roc97007 (608802)

      ... this surprises anyone how, exactly?

      What surprised me is that the prosecutor appeared to take the tampering seriously.

      • Re:And... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by amiga3D (567632) on Saturday April 27, 2013 @09:30PM (#43571389)

        I'm not. Prosecutors generally take a dim view of someone else tampering with evidence. It is one thing for them to twist things and entirely different when someone else does it.

      • Re:And... (Score:5, Informative)

        by digitig (1056110) on Saturday April 27, 2013 @10:11PM (#43571547)
        But apparently the judge didn't, otherwise there would have been a mistrial declared and either perjury or contempt of court charges.
        • by roc97007 (608802)

          Yeah.... I don't know how the courts work over there, but that sounds like grounds for appeal.

          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by Anonymous Coward

            The test for misconduct causing a mistrial is that due process was harmed. The judge probably corrected this with a jury instruction to ignore some of the evidence which is fine. You're right it is grounds for appeal if the judge is wrong, but most court proceeding result in some grounds for appeal technically. It sounds like they charged with evidence tampering which is probably just as bad a perjury. Contempt is usually inappropriate behavior towards the court during procedure. This is not what happened.

            • Re:And... (Score:5, Informative)

              by BeTeK (2035870) on Sunday April 28, 2013 @01:16AM (#43572125)
              In Finland we don't have jury trials. There is judge and 2 or more lay judges who decide the matter in hand.
              • What is a set of lay judges (i take that to mean judges who are not trained in the practice of law) other than a jury?

              • Holy shit, you let people with actual legal instruction, if not qualification give verdicts your courts? I want your legal system, because juries comprised of disinterested idiots (of which I have been a member) are just horrific.
          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by SuricouRaven (1897204)

            On a very minor technicality. The alteration wouldn't have altered the outcome of the trial. The IFPI weren't falsifying evidence. They just wanted to hide a piece of information that might compromise other ongoing investigations. The only thing they did wrong was not properly document the redaction.

            • Re:And... (Score:5, Insightful)

              by mwvdlee (775178) on Sunday April 28, 2013 @02:43AM (#43572359) Homepage

              Why assuming IFPI is telling the truth now, when they've already been caught lying?

            • Re:And... (Score:5, Insightful)

              by Opportunist (166417) on Sunday April 28, 2013 @04:36AM (#43572605)

              Maybe. Prove it!

              It's now on them to prove that this was the only thing altered. You alter your source IP, you can as well alter what he downloaded. Show me evidence that you didn't.

            • Re:And... (Score:5, Interesting)

              by TapeCutter (624760) on Sunday April 28, 2013 @04:48AM (#43572633) Journal
              That's how I see it, the redaction itself is reasonable, what makes it a crime is that they didn't seek permission from the the court. What makes it worse is that it seems professional investigators(who should know better) went along with it, at a minimum I think a hefty fine would be appropriate for their contempt/incompetence.
            • by rtb61 (674572)

              Sorry but once you alter evidence you then taint all evidence from that source ie 'er' yes we changed all those files but 'er' 'um' we didn't make any other 'er' 'um' changes to strengthen our case 'tee' 'hee'. So a major fubar, it is a criminal offence to alter evidence and submit it to court and pretty much guarantees any evidence from that particular source will have to be rejected out of hand.

            • Re:And... (Score:5, Informative)

              by Svartalf (2997) on Sunday April 28, 2013 @11:43AM (#43574285) Homepage

              Actually, it's not a technicality- not even close.

              It's a criminal offense in most jurisdictions to do this and it pretty much taints ANY evidence submitted by the source(s) which now must be disregarded by the court. It's called altering evidence, which is intrinsically viewed the same as falsifying it for good reason. If the evidence was valid, why did it need to be "altered"? If it's to protect the parties in question, that's a dirty hands situation, which WOULD have altered the outcome (You can't come running to the courts when you just broke the law yourselves... Typically calls for a motion to dismiss when you have this come out...).

              The Judge now can sanction the IFPI/MPAA and their counsel in varying ways including jail time for contempt of court.

        • Depends on whether the tampering proved material to the case at hand. Censoring the names of innocent parties is not in and of itself grounds for dismissal. That it was done under the table, and without the prosecutor's knowledge doesn't help their case, but it doesn't necessarily help the defendant's either.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        What surprised me is that the prosecutor appeared to take the tampering seriously.

        Well, read the summary again

        which saw four men found guilty and fined €45,000

        By my tally, I have: Government:45000, Lawyers:Untold thousands, MPAA:0, Joe Sixpack:0

        In summary: Two parties come to court to squabble. The lawyers and the government walk away with all the winnings. Case is then closed.

        This was a win for the people comrade! I find your lack of faith [in the courts] disturbing! </sarcasm>

    • by hairyfeet (841228)

      It shouldn't, the corp got their money, wasn't fined or prosecuted, the corps are just better people than you peasants and thus don't face the same laws you do. Anyone doubt that if the defendant had altered the files he would have gotten an obstruction charge?

      Its time we call the courts what they really are, "peasants courts" because that is their function, it is a place for the state and the rich to punish peasants while the wealthy walk away.

  • by waddgodd (34934) on Saturday April 27, 2013 @08:05PM (#43571009) Homepage Journal

    Somehow, this doesn't surprise me in the slightest

  • Handcuffs (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 27, 2013 @08:10PM (#43571025)

    Usually I don't support "send a message" type of prosecutions (Aaron Swartz, as just one example) but these guys need to be smacked down, hard. Fines are insufficient; anything short of significant jail time won't do a damn thing to the MAFIAA sociopathic execs who honestly believe they are above the law.

    A message needs to be sent, and this looks to be an open and shut case. I sure hope to see handcuffs.

    • Re:Handcuffs (Score:5, Interesting)

      by melikamp (631205) on Saturday April 27, 2013 @08:35PM (#43571143) Homepage Journal
      Even though I would love to see every racketeer prosecuted to the full extent of the law, a more useful approach would be to end the war on sharing. Only legalizing non-commercial file-sharing will protect the public from these sharks.
      • Re:Handcuffs (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Marksolo (970704) on Saturday April 27, 2013 @09:08PM (#43571283)
        Too bad all legal streaming services are having a hard time paying the protection fees required to operate.
      • by mbone (558574)

        Even though I would love to see every racketeer prosecuted to the full extent of the law, a more useful approach would be to end the war on sharing. Only legalizing non-commercial file-sharing will protect the public from these sharks.

        That is something that a local prosecutor cannot do. They can, however, prosecute malfeasance in their trials, and so should be encouraged to do so.

    • Re:Handcuffs (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 27, 2013 @08:35PM (#43571145)

      Usually I don't support "send a message" type of prosecutions (Aaron Swartz, as just one example) but these guys need to be smacked down, hard. Fines are insufficient; anything short of significant jail time won't do a damn thing to the MAFIAA sociopathic execs who honestly believe they are above the law.

      A message needs to be sent, and this looks to be an open and shut case. I sure hope to see handcuffs.

      Hope all you want. Fuck-all will be done. MAFIAA earned their synonymous name, and are just as powerful.

      Watch and see.

    • Re:Handcuffs (Score:5, Interesting)

      by king neckbeard (1801738) on Saturday April 27, 2013 @08:54PM (#43571197)
      Evidence tampering is a serious crime, with penalties up to 20 years the US. Not sure about Finland's laws, but significant jail time would be an appropriate and proportional response for these actions. "Sending a message" is when the response is disproportionate and inappropriate..
      • by sgt scrub (869860)

        As a U.S born trailer park raised American I can honestly conjecture the Vikings will burn him at the stake. If only conjecture was truth.

    • by jythie (914043)
      One does not even need to resort to 'send a message' or excessive prosecution. While I have no idea what laws are active in Finland, generally tampering with evidence is a pretty serious offense.... and even though they try to act like a government, the MPAA can not claim 'state secrets' in order to hide on of their informants.
    • Re:Handcuffs (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Opportunist (166417) on Sunday April 28, 2013 @04:57AM (#43572659)

      What message? "Sending a message" is usually applied where you tack insane punishments to minor crimes in the vain hope that this could somehow prevent others from doing so.

      Has it worked for drugs?

      Has it worked for file sharing?

      Has it EVER worked for ANYTHING?

      It doesn't work. But here the usual punishment is already high enough. Tampering with evidence is a serious crime. Tampering with evidence on behalf of an organization without any personal gain at high personal risk is in the area of organized crime.

      And if not, I'd really want to know why. Because it fulfills every single aspect of it.

  • by icebike (68054) on Saturday April 27, 2013 @08:12PM (#43571033)

    I predict that unless it is proven that they fabricated evidence, the person on trial will still get convicted, and the MPAA will get nothing more than a verbal slap on the wrist.

    Deletion of exculpatory evidence is one thing, but deletion to hide a source is simply redaction, which governments do daily. They will laugh it off as a minor oversight.
     

    • by Aryden (1872756) on Saturday April 27, 2013 @08:15PM (#43571051)
      There is a difference between redaction, which hides material to which you will still know exists but not the actual information and removing information entirely and not notifying the defense and the court.
    • by NFN_NLN (633283) on Saturday April 27, 2013 @08:21PM (#43571081)

      I predict that unless it is proven that they fabricated evidence, the person on trial will still get convicted, and the MPAA will get nothing more than a verbal slap on the wrist.

      Deletion of exculpatory evidence is one thing, but deletion to hide a source is simply redaction, which governments do daily. They will laugh it off as a minor oversight.

      ... and you're suppose to just take their word that those were the only changes? If they had access to make changes then the chain of evidence is tainted... who knows that happened.

      • by icebike (68054) on Saturday April 27, 2013 @08:26PM (#43571097)

        Read the Story. The police had other copies and were able to compare the files verify that the only changes made were to hide the identity of their informant.

        • by arbiter1 (1204146)
          even being a spy the defense should have the right to question said spy.
        • The story says that, but it could just be something inserted by the MPAA executives who briefed the author of the story to put some nice PR spin on their actions. And if they really wanted to protect the informants identity, why did they not inform the defense that they "altered the evidence". No the shit hit the fan and the MPAA is running to do some CYA work.
          • Yeah, right.

            If I was a MPAA executive and had the power to make the author write what I want, I would put the blame on the investigator.
            Why doesn't he name names? Because he can't obviously. There was no executive present so he can't give a name. He did this on his own. Let's fire him. Case closed.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      MPAA != Government - therefor the entire evidence chain is tainted - who knows what was *added* via cut n paste before handing it over as the "working copy"......

      Mistrial, defendants not guilty by means of manufactured evidence, never to be tried for these infractions again.

      • by icebike (68054) on Saturday April 27, 2013 @08:34PM (#43571137)

        Read the story.

        4 Defendants previously found guilty are still guilty.
        2 Defendants previously acquitted are still acquitted.

        Nothing has changed.

        Police had untouched copies and that is how the differences were found. No evidence was manufactured, only some non-related material was deleted to protect their source. This is a procedural error at worst (failure to notify). Lawyers get a tongue lashing and nothing more.

        • by Mashiki (184564)

          Unless the police copies can be guaranteed to be 100% non-tampered, they've successfully introduced reasonable doubt over both sets of evidence(the copy and the claimed original). And unless the laws are vastly different in finland, reasonable doubt at this level, is enough to cause a retrial or have the evidence completely thrown out.

          • by icebike (68054)

            I assure you the laws are different in Finland.

            How does a lawyer tampering with his copy also cast doubt on the Police copy that was obtained before the lawyer even had a copy?

            • by Mashiki (184564)

              How does a lawyer tampering with his copy also cast doubt on the Police copy that was obtained before the lawyer even had a copy?

              Chain of evidence rule.

              • by icebike (68054) on Saturday April 27, 2013 @08:47PM (#43571183)

                How does a lawyer tampering with his copy also cast doubt on the Police copy that was obtained before the lawyer even had a copy?

                Chain of evidence rule.

                Please quote that rule, from Finland law.

                Police had the logs.
                They gave lawyers a copy.
                Lawyers changed their copy for court presentation.
                Police compare logs and find the differences.
                At no time were the police logs out of police custody.

                So just what part of the chain of evidence was broken? The Police copy is still pristine.

                • From the article: “The IFPI investigator handed over the evidence material to the MPAA senior executive who then changed the text file before the anti-piracy organization handed over the evidence to the Finnish police,” Hietanen says.

                  Not quite the clear chain of evidence unless the MPAA is a member of the justice system in Finland. It doesn't say that the executive had someone present from IFPI when making changes or not.

                  • by icebike (68054)

                    Keep reading:

                    This resulted in the prosecutor ordering a police investigation into the changes that had been made.

                    “Police then proceeded by comparing the ‘work copy’ that the IFPI investigator produced with the material that police and the defending counsels had received. Police found out that the material had differences in over 10 files,” Hietanen reveals.

                    • by Khyber (864651)

                      Your logic circuits have failed.

                      Work copy vs copy POLICE AND COUNSEL received.

                      As in, what we gave the police was modified.

                      Reading comprehension is important.

                • by Exitar (809068) on Saturday April 27, 2013 @09:11PM (#43571307)

                  I'm not so sure that "The Police copy is still pristine" since the articla stated that "there was also an MPAA executive in the room while the evidence gathering took place".

                • Police then proceeded by comparing the ‘work copy’ that the IFPI investigator produced with the material that POLICE and the defending counsels had received

                  The article seems to state the evidence was gather by the IFPI, the Finnish anti-piracy people, and the MPAA executive. So, the IFPI appears to have had the evidence before the cops did, and your alleged chain is incorrect.

                • The evidence presented to the jury (or judge or whatever Finland does) was tampered with, ergo the conviction is invalid. What the police may or may not have had is irrelevant.

                  How Finnish law deals with the appeal, who knows. But the conviction on tampered evidence is still wrong.

                • by gl4ss (559668)

                  the police wasn't present when the evidence gathering took place, though? since it was ifpi/mpaa just logging.

                  you really think the police initiated any of this? hell no. the ifpi just calls them and gives them a file that says is evidence and then the cops go bust the guys(or little girls) computers and ask them to confess. that's how that shit goes down over here. if they don't then depending on if they found anything on the computer to verify the copyright lobbys allegations it goes to court with that as

                • by Shagg (99693)

                  Who gave the logs to the Police in the first place?

        • Actually, the only thing that the story says is that 10 files had their contents changed. The only known change is that of a username.

          Also, the 'work copy' for comparison came from the IFPI, hardly an unbiased source, so we have no guarantee of its authenticity either. There was also no reason to 'protect the source.' First of all, it would trivial to get that info redacted. Secondly, even if they couldn't, usernames are probably not of significant value anyway.
        • by erroneus (253617)

          Can you prove that no evidence was manufactured? Once they go down the road of modifying evidence, everything should be questioned.

          And for another thing, text files are the least reliable forms of evidence I can imagine. If they want us to believe a text file, there should be a better way of verifiable logs... you know, something which involves crypto keys connecting the machine to various other things and all that?

          And then there's the notion of the right to face one's accuser. Their spy amounts to "secr

    • OJ got off when the cops messed with the evidence

      • by hedwards (940851)

        Pretty much. Whether or not he was guilty, the blood soaked socks that were soaked through from one side rather than from both probably did a huge favor to the defense in establishing a reasonable doubt.

        Who knows what would have happened without the doctored evidence. He might still have been found not guilty, but we could have had a less ambiguous result.

    • How does it even make scene to consider this evidence in the first place. These are files that the plaintiffs submitted from their own computers. They are testimony.

      A gun with fingerprints is full blown evidence. A written statement from a witness is testimony.

    • by Darinbob (1142669)

      However they did this redaction without telling the government. Part of the reason I think that MPAA employees are allowed along in the investigation is because prosecutors view them as impartial experts. However if word gets out widely about this I bet a lot more of them are kept far away from the investigation in the future.

    • by mwvdlee (775178)

      After having altered evidence without notifying the court, the onus should be on the MPAA to prove they haven't altered any more evidence.
      The evidence should be treated with prejudice.

  • "MPAA evidence" because it's all made up and fact/reality light
  • The MPAA executive involved in this should be prosecuted and receive the exact sentence of the accused individuals. Anything short of this warrants some vigilante justice against the organized crime syndicate that the MPAA has become.
    • Vigilante Justice (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mlwmohawk (801821) on Saturday April 27, 2013 @08:48PM (#43571189)

      This is something I am troubled by on a regular basis. It is increasingly clear that our government and legal system are stacked against common citizens.

      At some point, it will occur to those being prosecuted for sharing some songs on the internet and being fined for more than they'll ever make in their lifetime, that the U.S. is a dictionary definition of a fascist state where government is intertwined with corporations and industry. The real problems are the corporate executives that can do this crap with no repercussions. There needs to be repercussions. If the legal system doesn't provide a way to bring the fight to the door of the powerful, then I fear that the our society will break down to the point where citizens must be vigilantes to get any sort of justice over the prosecutors, politicians, and the people who run the corporations.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        We assassinate political and ideological opponents right out in the open and we either ignore it or dance in the street, depending on whether we've heard of the guy. They put Boston under martial law and everyone sings, "America, Fuck Yeah." It's too late; there will be no revolution because the people are in favor of fascism. Maybe in a couple of generations, but this one is numb and dumb.

      • If the legal system doesn't provide a way to bring the fight to the door of the powerful....

        We have one. It's called the Second Amendment. Sadly most people fail to realize that the right to bear arms was included in the Bill of Rights mainly as an insurance against tyranny. The writers of the American Constitution knew that an armed populace is one that is capable of rebellion.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by mlwmohawk (801821)

          This is exactly the issue I'm concerned about. "Second amendment solutions" are not a solution in a working society. It means that something is seriously wrong.

  • for some time now. It's about time they got caught.

  • Easy solution (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    There is a very easy solution to this kind of nonsense. I know that European courts operate quite differently from US ones, but in US terms here is what should happen.

    Order a mistrial. Declare all tainted evidence inadmissible (even if the "original" is presented). Fine the IFPA a significant sum for deliberately attempting to mislead the court. Investigate if criminal charges against individuals in the IFPA are warranted. Order an arrest/extradition warrant against the MPAA agent responsible so he could ex

    • Even easier solution: Repeal Copyright.
    • by zyzko (6739)

      Yes, European courts operate differently. There is no such thing as inadmissible evidence in Finland - the court is free to take in to account even evidence which was obtained unlawfully. Only thing that limits evidence is testifying - when you testify you are under oath and lying is prohibited (unless you testify for yourself, then you are free to lie as much as you like).

      This has its merits (fewer cases are thrown out on technicality reasons) but it also creates things like this where evidence is not nece

  • Point I've made in the computerized voting systems ongoing fiasco: if you are "in" the system, you control the output. This is counter intuitive for geeks and ATM users everywhere. Automated systems aren't automated if the owners of the system output have control at any point. You, as the accused or someone looking at a computerized vote counting system, cannot tell if some man in the middle changed the output.

    Sometimes, tho, that isn't true, as in this case. Altering text logs. But after this, be assured t

    • by hedwards (940851)

      Indeed, even if, for the sake of argument, the only alteration was the username. The system in place authenticated the altered version just fine, until they did some digging. Apparently there's an acknowledgement that there was a username changed to protect an identity.

      The problem then becomes exactly what you're describing, how do we know that was the only change that was made to those files. And given that it apparently wasn't disclosed, how do we know that all of the changes were and what the original ev

      • I have to point out though, if you are one writing the script that spits out the log, you can make any changes on the fly regardless of how it is printed out. If you tell the system to change every word of apple to banana, even if the "log" is 100% not tampered with after printed, it was tampered on the way there.
        • by hedwards (940851)

          That's why we have rules of evidence. I'm not sure about Finland, but in the US you would have to present somebody to testify as to how the data was selected and collected in the first place.

          And what's more that log script would be something that would be subject to discovery anyways.

          • OH, I understand that. I was mostly pointing out that to me I understood your comment that because it was printed it wasn't tampered with. I agree the printed part, but it looks like you all ready agree with me on the script that prints it.
  • by Torodung (31985) on Saturday April 27, 2013 @09:51PM (#43571473) Journal

    If this were in the U.S., I'd say dust off the RICO act, because someone's transgressed. Anything similar in Finland? It would be fun to see organized copyright lobbyists put on the same page of the law books as Al Capone.

  • by funkboy (71672) on Sunday April 28, 2013 @04:17AM (#43572553) Homepage

    Was the trial held in Tampere [wikipedia.org]?

    ba-dum-cha

    Sorry, couldn't resist...

    • by zyzko (6739)

      As a resident of Tampere I find this objective...no wait, I don't - kudos to you, sir :)

      The trial was held at Oulu, a northern medium-sized city in Finland. It should be noted that this was one of the most high-profile cases copyright holders have had and it dried up to quite small convictions - 45 000 euros is not insignificant but quite different than the 6 million the rights holders were asking for.

  • I'm still trying to figure out how a trivially editable text file can be used as "evidence". It's basically just their word against yours, does it really make a difference if they write their word down on a piece of paper? What's to stop them from just creating "log files" that say anything they want?

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