Monday, September 17, 2007

MediaDefender Leak

MediaDefender markets itself this way: "We provide services that stop the spread of illegally traded copyrighted material over the Internet and Peer-to-Peer networks. Our solutions have been adopted as practical, proven methods to thwart Internet piracy and to drive consumers to pay for digitized content distributed through authorized channels." MediaDefender has been in the news recently due to leaks of emails and other picture is found in Wikipedia, which has a remarkably current story, along with links:

…. MediaDefender is based in Los Angeles, California in the United States, and its chief executive is Randy Saaf. As of March 2007, the company has approximately 60 employees and uses 2,000 servers hosted in California with contracts for 9 GB/s of bandwidth. Increasingly, these type of organizations are being hired to stymie peer-to-peer (P2P) traders through a variety of methods including: posting fake files online, recording individuals who contribute copyrighted material, but also marketing to individuals using P2P networks. Clients include Universal Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Virgin Records, HBO, Paramount Pictures, and BMG. On August 1, 2005, the digital media entertainment company ARTISTdirect announced that it had acquired MediaDefender for $42.5 million in cash. In February 2007, MediaDefender launched a video sharing site called Miivi.com. On July 4, 2007, file-sharing news site TorrentFreak alleged that Miivi.com was created to trap uploaders of copyrighted content. The site's origins were discovered by a blogger who looked up Miivi.com domain registration information. After the allegation was re-posted throughout the blogosphere, Miivi.com was shut down on July 4, 2007. In an interview with Ars Technica, chief executive Randy Saaf stated that "MediaDefender was working on an internal project that involved video and didn't realize that people would be trying to go to it and so we didn't password-protect the site". MediaDefender blamed file-sharing groups such as The Pirate Bay for starting the story.Following MediaDefender's subsequent email leak, TorrentFreak alleged that MediaDefender's statement was revealed to be a deliberate falsehood. Saaf denied that MiiVi was "a devious product" and that the company aimed to entrap users, stating only that it was part of MediaDefender's "trade secrets." The MPAA denied any involvement with MediaDefender. On September 14, 2007, internal emails from MediaDefender were leaked to The Pirate Bay, appearing to indicate that Miivi.com was created to catch potential copyright violators. The emails also revealed that the site was closed when this fact became public knowledge, and was scheduled to be re-launched as www.viide.com. As of September 15, 2007, viide.com has not been opened up to the public. The e-mails also showed efforts to suppress the leak on the Wikipedia article about MediaDefender. On September 14, 2007, thousands of the company's internal e-mails were leaked, containing information contradicting previous statements and details of strategies intended to deceive pirates. The emails link MediaDefender to projects that management previously denied involvement in, confirm speculation that MiiVi.com was an anti-piracy honeypot site, discuss responses to unexpected and negative press, and expose upcoming projects, problems in and around the office, Domino's pizza orders, and other personal information about employees. Beyond strategic information, the leak also exposed login information for FTP and MySQL servers, making available a large library of MP3 files likely including artists represented by MediaDefender's clients. The emails also revealed that MediaDefender probably was negotiating with the New York Attorney General's office to allow them access to information about users accessing pornographic material. As of September 15, 2007, there has been no official response from the company. … On September 16, 2007, a 25 minute excerpt of a phone conversation between the New York Attorney General's office and MediaDefender was released as a torrent on The Pirate Bay by MediaDefender-Defenders, the same group behind the e-mail leak. MediaDefender-Defenders claims in information released with the phone conversation that they have infiltrated the "internals" of the company.

A more detailed picture is provided here in Arts Technica. The story has been picked up by the Wall Street Journal (today's issue, page B1), which has this quote from one of the emails:

"In one case, a Universal executive asked if there was any data showing the music industry's lawsuits were resulting in less file-sharing activity from addresses ending in .edu -- namely, colleges and universities. Mr. Saaf forwarded the message to five MediaDefender employees with the message 'Take a moment to laugh to yourselves.'"

2 comments:

Crosbie Fitch said...

The lesson:

Controlling access to, use of, and distribution of private intellectual property is a very serious matter, but controlling the diffusion of published intellectual works is a joke.

There are only three constraints the public will tolerate concerning intellectual works. These are those necessary to:
1. Protect life
2. Protect privacy
3. Preserve truth

Communicating, sharing stories and learning is what Homo Sapiens has evolved to do.

Control over diffusion is not in the public's interest, but in the publishers'
- whilst they still exist as a distinct species...

Len Rubin said...

So MediaDefender is no better, and it seems a lot worse, than other companies relied upon by the record labels. And where has The Harry Fox Agency been through all of this? (And Bill, please send me your regular email address so I can send you an invitation.)

LenRubin