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Judge Rules TorrentSpy Destroyed Evidence 325

Come play kdice writes "A federal judge has handed the MPAA a resounding victory in its copyright infringement lawsuit against TorrentSpy. Judge Florence-Marie Cooper entered a default judgment against Justin Bunnell and the rest of the named defendants in Columbia Pictures et al. v. Justin Bunnell et al. after finding that TorrentSpy 'engaged in widespread and systematic efforts to destroy evidence'. After being sued, TorrentSpy mounted a vigorous defense, including a counter-suit it filed against the MPAA in May 2006, but, behind the scenes, the court documents paint a picture of a company desperately trying to bury any and all incriminating evidence. TorrentSpy has announced its intention to appeal, but its conduct makes a reversal unlikely."
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Judge Rules TorrentSpy Destroyed Evidence

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  • by schnikies79 ( 788746 ) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @11:17AM (#21751564)
    but from what I read, they did destroy evidence which they clearly aren't allowed to do. Sounds like bad decisions on the part of Torrentspy led to this.

    Maybe if they left things as they were they could have fared better.
  • by The Only Druid ( 587299 ) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @11:19AM (#21751584)
    The one doesn't invalid the other.

    Regardless of anything the CIA does, TorrentSpy deserves to be punished for having destroyed evidence (regardless further of whether they initially did anything wrong). It is also true that the CIA should be punished accordingly, but the failure of the courts to deal with that yet is simply irrelevant in the discussion of this case.

    If you're sued, DON'T DESTROY EVIDENCE! It eliminates any credibility, and exposes you to situations like this.
  • by Liquidrage ( 640463 ) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @11:23AM (#21751626)
    This has nothing to do with the CIA case.

    Hey, look. We all know that the MPAA/RIAA are pricks. But the good fight isn't sticking up for people that are violating copyright in bulk on purpose. If a university were to block all of bit torrent, that's a cause worth fighting against. The right fight is to not allow the bad (or potential bad) to prevent the good. But let's not bury our heads in the sand and pretend places like TorrentSpy weren't doing anything but providing a way for people to share copyrighted material.

    Like it or not, people are downloading and sharing against copyright all over. And there's no reason to support that.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @11:27AM (#21751658)
    I'm glad those sleazy rats at the MPAA won't be getting their greedy hands on my IP address from torrentspy.

    This is the digital equivalent of throwing yourself on a grenade to save your comrads. Right on.

    Thank you kindly,
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @11:33AM (#21751722)
    could it be that it was a well thought out decision?

    Let's say that after a quick look at things.. they knew they were f'ed, and would likely be found guilty anyway; with little to no chance of having a deal made.

    With that in mind, they could be found guilty and with the evidence..
    - the opposite party would have access to a bunch of records, which means they could find other things to sue for
    - the opposite party could possibly target those mentioned in the records
    - the "are torrent sites doing illicit things by definition" question might have been answered unfavorably

    Or destroy the evidence, blocking the above, and being found guilty of the main charge by default. They're still equally fooked, but the thing they loved would be hurt less?
  • by dada21 ( 163177 ) <> on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @11:48AM (#21751898) Homepage Journal
    I'm really sick of our Federal system, as most of you know. It's completely ridiculous that law-school educated judges can not read the Constitution, and understand the basic definitions of freedom.

    Copyright is a Constitutionally-protected power of government. I understand that. I hate copyright, I would never use it, but I accept it. To infringe on copyright, a person must take someone else's art, and make a copy. That person who paints their own version of a copyright-protected oil painting will use oils and canvas to breach copyright. The oil manufacturer is not guilty. The canvas manufacturer is not guilty. Exxon/Mobil who provided fuel for you to drive to buy the oil and canvas are not guilty. Ford, who provided the car to get to the store to buy oil and canvas are not guilty. The person selling you a book with a license to reprint that oil, is not guilty. You, the person doing the copying, are guilty.

    TorrentSpy is like the gun, or the gun manufacturer. The murderer is the person actively aiming the weapon in anger, and pulling the trigger. The person selling the gun shouldn't care what the end user is going to do, other than warn them that they're buying something dangerous. The person making the gun should not be held responsible. The ACT of committing a crime comes from actually committing a crime.

    If copyright is moral, and valid, then the person doing the copying should be found guilty. Hosting a torrent is not hosting a file.

    If you vote, please vote against retention on every position. Judges need to be kicked out as quick as they're voted in. Vote against incumbents who enforce the law, too (police chief, etc). There's no reason to keep anyone in office long enough to abuse power. All these judges are just power-hungry. They can't understand that copyright is protected by the artist, only against someone else copying the art.
  • by Ochu ( 877326 ) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @11:54AM (#21751970) Homepage
    Not to shit on your parade or anything, but I think that defense has been tried and failed.
    Also, even if it hasn't, you'd better hope they don't link that post to you.
  • by Slashdot Parent ( 995749 ) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @11:57AM (#21752004)

    If you're sued, DON'T DESTROY EVIDENCE!
    And if you do destroy evidence, try not to discuss it publicly like TorrentSpy did.

  • by cHiphead ( 17854 ) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @12:03PM (#21752102)
    There were already investigations into "toture" before 2005, but I guess your PSYOPS doesn't account for that or want it to be exposed. Perhaps there was no 'Congressional' investigation ongoing, but that has nothing to do with the fact that it was obvious evidence and was destroyed specifically because it would be used as THE damning evidence in any Congressional Impeachment / Investigation or even a UN based investigation.

    It was destruction of evidence, just because it was a 'classified' set of tapes, it was still evidence that could have been used by numerous groups and individuals in numerous cases against the government before during and after 2005. Hiding the evidence and destroying evidence are both illegal.

  • Re:evidence (Score:0, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @12:04PM (#21752126) there really anything morally wrong with destroying evidence to cover your ass?

    Yes. Yes there is.
  • by morgan_greywolf ( 835522 ) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @12:13PM (#21752238) Homepage Journal
    And? In the first two cases, it's illegal for the police to withhold evidence or coerce witnesses into not testifying for the defense. In the last case, they didn't tamper with the files, they filed altered court documents and lied to cover up the fact that they stole the files via dumpster diving.
  • by Ravensfire ( 209905 ) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @12:16PM (#21752274) Homepage
    They were also ordered to preserve the ram of their servers in real time.

    That alone should invalidate everything else the judge had to say.

    Bullshit - read it, will you? The Judge said that the IP's were available to TorrentSpy as the information was present in the RAM at some point. They required that TorrentSpy log that information. That's quite a bit different from "preserve the ram".

    TorrentSpy fucked up big time on this, and got caught. Courts don't like people that destroy evidence and smack them around. They especially don't like people that destroy evidence after the case is filed, or lie what about what they can/cannot do.

    I have zero sympathy for TorrentSpy. Without their actions, they would have had a chance to beat this case.

    -- Ravensfire
  • by monomania ( 595068 ) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @12:18PM (#21752306)
    The tapes were destroyed subsequent to a court order not to do so, in direct violation of that order. The order came about at that time to preserve possible evidence in the event of a future investigation. It is the violation of that previous order, not 'destruction of evidence', that is the current CIA scandal. I believe if the current investigation reveals that the destroyed tapes are germane to the investigation their destruction can be then deemed 'destruction of evidence'.
  • by Jeff DeMaagd ( 2015 ) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @12:23PM (#21752380) Homepage Journal
    I think it's most likely this. I see little reason for these people would sacrifice themselves to protect other people from their own actions. This isn't a life-or-death thing, and I just don't see it's worth it for Jim to go to prison or pay damages just so some strangers "John" (#1 through 1 million) can have a copy of a movie that can probably be bought legally on DVD for $5 right now.

    If they really were looking out for other people, they shouldn't have been keeping potentially incriminating information in the first place.

    But if the company in question knew that they were going to be in deep trouble for something they themselves did, then maybe they thought it's worth the risk.
  • 5th Amendment (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bzipitidoo ( 647217 ) <> on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @12:25PM (#21752400) Journal

    Not preserving evidence != destroying evidence. I'm thinking the most sensible standard for courts to follow is minimalist. That is, no changes should be made to operations. Whatever information was being kept before should be preserved. And whatever information was not being kept for whatever reason (limited resources, goes stale quickly) should not be fair game for judges to order preservation of. So we have an argument over whether the info the judge was ordering TorrentSpy to keep was long term or not. But I wonder if the whole argument is beside the point, because it should apply only to 3rd parties, not to the accused.

    A trouble with this standard is it encourages businesses to make destruction, even gratuitous destruction, routine. Many businesses do routinely destroy information that may be of interest someday to researchers, historians, restorers, and collectors, as well as still have value to the business, solely because the risks of having it around and having it be used against them are more than the value. Guilty until proven innocent has that advantage over the other way around-- people will preserve anything and everything that might prove their innocence.

    The problem is resolved with the 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination. (Unless that doesn't apply somehow? Civil trials? Seems it should.) Why should TorrentSpy or anyone else be forced to produce info to hang themselves with? Why can't the MPAA have to meet the higher standard of proving TorrentSpy's guilt without any help from TorrentSpy? With the 5th Amendment standard in place, businesses can make their record keeping decisions freer of bias from legal requirements. No one should have to play stupid with "uhh, I forgot". The judge's orders to preserve data is therefore moot-- TorrentSpy cannot be forced to produce the data, whether or not it exists, or should be preserved.

  • by terrymr ( 316118 ) <> on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @12:30PM (#21752464)
    That's quite a bit different from normal discovery rules too. If you don't keep a record of something you can not be required to start keeping a record for discovery purposes. Now I've also heard it alleged that they were logging IPs and stopped and the judge merely ordered them to un-stop. That would be different.

  • by orclevegam ( 940336 ) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @12:32PM (#21752504) Journal
    I think definitely on a small scale at least. I live in the US but regularly violate copyright and the DMCA by burning copies of my CDs, ripping them to MP3, and downloading and installing codecs and DeCSS for viewing DVDs. Legally I don't have the right to bypass the CSS encryption on the DVDs I purchased by using DeCSS, but I do it anyway because the laws that make it illegal are unjust in my opinion. As to the sort of whole sale violation you see at places like TorrentSpy, well, that's a whole other ball game, sort of a Apples and Oranges thing. There may be some argument that it's only fair because of the way the media cartels have trampled our rights that we stick it to them so to speak, and the damages handed out for these things are definitely out of line, but whether that justifies the behavior I don't know.
  • by Retric ( 704075 ) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @12:35PM (#21752542)
    I feel current copyright laws are so one sided as to be ignored.

    I pay for cable and if I record a show that's fine, but if I download a show because I forgot to TiVo it then I am breaking the law.

    Ripping a DVD that I paid for is breaking the law.

    Downloading a CD that got scratched is breaking the law.

    IMO: I will pay for content once and only once. If you want to sell me new content bundled with old aka (movie + directors cut) that's fine but when it's identical content then I have already paid for it.
  • resounding? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by troll -1 ( 956834 ) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @12:40PM (#21752620)
    I wouldn't call this a resounding victory. There are still plenty o' torrent sites [] out there.

    The MPAA, like the RIAA, has failed the grasp the significance of what's unfolding in the 21st century. However you feel about sharing copyrighted material (right or wrong), suing sites into oblivion will not stop what is apparently going to be the new pervasive form of distribution. Just as the horse and buggy gave way to the automobile, so the delivery mechanism of physically moving data around on DVDs in face of the industry's unwillingness to provide it's own online delivery alternative, will naturally give way to a more efficient system.

    Take a hint: For about the past 70 years, advertising has fully paid for free content via broadcast radio and TV.

  • by The Only Druid ( 587299 ) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @01:01PM (#21752954)
    Not to be glib, but I think you're confusing the way litigation/prosecutions are depicted on TV/news with the way they actually occur.

    It's difficult for the public to keep the proper understanding, because they typically don't see the entire case. They hear an article about the indictment, or the conviction or acquittal, but rarely follow all the goings-on. The burdens of proof in civil and criminal matters have, if anything, shifted in favor of defendants in the last decade or two. However, on the other hand, class-action settlements have increased (wherein plaintiffs get money without evidence) because of the cost-benefit ratio of "full litigation" to "early settlement": sometimes it's cheaper to buy silence than prove innocence.

    This is a case of "a little knowledge is dangerous": without having a better, more robust sense of how cases actually progress, you've developed a sense that they no longer require the plaintiff/prosecutor to prove their case. The reality is very much the opposite, as anyone who actually is a part of the legal system would agree.
  • by Rob the Bold ( 788862 ) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @01:35PM (#21753410)

    The money you pay for is *not* for the content itself, it is for the *right* to use the content on that specific physical piece of media.

    The MAFIAAs say that a lot. But I hope it's not true. If it is, then they really are getting an unfairly generous deal, as the GP said.

    I could see arguing that one buys a license, not the physical work. In that case, if the media were lost or destroyed, replacements would be available at a nominal charge to cover plastic, postage, overhead, etc. Personal backup copies to be stored safely would be OK under that concept, or the reverse -- making a copy to play and saving the original.

    I could also see making the argument that you bought a copy of a work, it's now yours to do with as you please -- "first sale" doctrine. You could give it to your friends, or sell it to someone else. Of course if you break it, tough. Buy another, just like if you broke a dinner plate.

    But as you state it, they want the best of both worlds. You buy a license to to a specific copy of a work. You can play it or not. But you can't back it up, you can't transfer the work to a new medium so you can continue to use it after the original technology is no longer supported. All you own is the license to play copy # 1267888993 of "Oops, I did it again" on CD.

    Kudos, though. You did get a car analogy in. It might be better to add that you need to buy a license to operate each car you own, and one for each friend or relative that might borrow your car. And each license wouldn't cost a $50 fee from the DMV, but would be sold as part of the car, and each license would cost the full price of a car. Trade-ins not accepted. So a two-car, two-driver household would need to "buy" four cars, that is, one license for each driver for each car.

  • by vinn01 ( 178295 ) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @01:41PM (#21753508)

    There are two steps to the RIAA's lawsuits: the "settlement" letter and the actual lawsuit itself. If you destroy data after receiving the settlement letter, you're a wise person. If you destroy data after receiving the lawsuit papers, you're toast if they catch you (as noted in this article).

    I would not make any destruction of data obvious. A wiped disk is a sure sign of intentional destruction.

    If I were to destroy data, my plan would be to use the "Craftsman Hammer" hard drive data destruction tool and proper trash disposal procedures. Followed by a clean install of the entire system on a new hard drive. If you're sued, you have to have a clean system at that point in time. They will compel an examination of your computer(s). The only way to assure that nothing is found is to have nothing for them to find.

    Finger pointing and denial of found evidence have not proven to be a good defense against the RIAA.
  • by The Only Druid ( 587299 ) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @02:44PM (#21754370)
    As even McCain once put it: winning a war isn't about defeating your enemy, but rather ensuring that you do not become your enemy. We cannot defeat a foe who has no respect for human rights if we ourselves don't respect human rights. If we stoop to their level, we are no better than they.

    If you're willing to live as someone no better than the foe you hope to defeat, I am simply baffled by your sense of ethics. It is better to die a good man than to live as a wicked one.
  • by Homr Zodyssey ( 905161 ) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @03:31PM (#21754940) Journal

    At the risk of feeding a troll...

    Are you seriously saying that after the government beat the location of the secret operatives out of captured combatants...?

    I think he's saying we shouldn't have beaten the information out of them. So far, the American people know of no actionable intelligence that was gained in this manner.

    How much information gathered would be enough to satisfy you and how much would be enough to foil any advantage of knowing this information?

    I can't speak for the GP, but for me there is NO amount of information that makes it acceptable to torture people. We are the good guys. We are better than that. The good guys don't need to resort to these tactics. If they do, they are no longer the good guys.

    As long as we can monitor what we found, we can stop anything from happening

    The point here is that we can't.

    If something happens and American people are killed again, are you guys going to dance and proclaim that you were right?

    Nice straw-man. What you're really saying is: If you don't like violence, you must be a traitor.

    There is just _No_ other way of looking at it.

    There is ALWAYS another way of looking at things.

  • by big_paul76 ( 1123489 ) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @03:51PM (#21755236)

    Like it or not, people are downloading and sharing against copyright all over. And there's no reason to support that.
    Ok, if there's a law that a large portion of the citizenry seems unwilling to obey, should we try and change the behavior of those people breaking the law or should we try to change the law? Or, to put it another way, do you really think the genie will go back in the bottle? I don't think that, short of a mandated-by-law trusted computing scenario, (and, let's face it, will TC really be "unbreakable"? History suggests that's doubtful) you can ever stop piracy. Sooner we admit that the better.

    Now, before a lot of people start saying "well, if enough people commit murder should that be legal too?". The analogy you're looking for is not with crimes like murder or rape but with artifical, imposed-by-government crimes like prohibition.

    In a democracy, the basis of legitimacy of laws or governments should be a mandate from the people. While I don't trust polls very much, and I don't have any hard numbers, but I'd be willing to bet that most people don't see non-commercial copyright violations as much of a problem. I'm not even sure you can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that private non-commercial copyright violations is costing anybody any money.

    Not unless you accept the RIAA/MPAA voodoo accounting that every single copyright violation = one lost sale.
  • by BlueCoder ( 223005 ) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @05:18PM (#21756550)
    The thing about turning over ip addresses when they claimed they weren't available was wrong but that info wouldn't have been useful against them, it would have been used to go after people that posted to the forums as automatic pirates for posting to a forum.

    What they did do was clean up their forums which I believe partially what the MPAA's complaint were about. Further they didn't destroy old posted, they archived them. They removed movie clips.

    When they were ordered to log IP's again they simply refused to further provide service to US citizens until the matter was resolved.

    Sounds to me like another judge confused by computers.

    You have two different entities here. The search engine itself and the web forums.
  • by jacquesm ( 154384 ) <j&ww,com> on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @07:23PM (#21758250) Homepage
    good luck finding a judge that understands enough of the issues at hand here to make a 'good' judgement. Remember, you don't need to be guilty at all, you just need to be *found* guilty.
  • by HTH NE1 ( 675604 ) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @08:06PM (#21758766)

    I'm not a lawyer, but I know enough about the law to know that destroying corporate records that could be used as evidence is illegal, unless the destruction is in keeping with the company's existing policy on data retention.
    I'm not a lawyer either, but I understood from early on in this case that it was less a matter of TorrentSpy destroying records than it was them deliberately not creating them in the first place. Their standard retention policy was to retain nothing.
    The judge in this case was looking for a way to say the defendant was obligated to keep durable records of his misdeeds, practically to the point of tapping the memory bus.

All science is either physics or stamp collecting. -- Ernest Rutherford