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The Internet Media

MPAA Sets Up Fake Site to Catch Pirates 617

thefickler writes "Media Defender, a company which does the dirty work for the MPAA, has been caught setting up 'dummy' websites in an attempt to catch those who download copyrighted videos. The site,, complete with a user registration, forum, and "family filter", offered complete downloads of movies and "fast and easy video downloading all in one great site." But that's not all; MiiVi also offered client software to speed up the downloading process. The only catch is, after it was installed, it searched your computer for other copyrighted files and reported back."
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MPAA Sets Up Fake Site to Catch Pirates

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  • uh oh.... (Score:5, Funny)

    by SpaceballsTheUserNam ( 941138 ) on Wednesday July 04, 2007 @07:10PM (#19748279)
    I just told all my friends about that site. Knew it was too good to be true.
    • "I just told all my friends about that site. Knew it was too good to be true."

      Well, since it's offline, looks like all they'll get is a billboard of "AdSense For Domain Squatters" ads.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      How did you hear about it? I'd be interested in learning how they advertised their existance. Forum posts? I've never heard about this site, and I often frequent the shady parts of town.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Frosty Piss ( 770223 )

      I just told all my friends about that site. Knew it was too good to be true.

      You shouldn't be downloading "full movies" from these types of sites anyway. It's clearly illegal and only lets the MPAA say "See? These people are just common thieves like we've said all along". I mean, come on! You never bought a copy of the movie, so you can't be claiming "fair use, blah, blah, blah..." Good riddance to those who get busted, this may be dishonest of the MPAA, but it's also dishonest of you.

      • Re:uh oh.... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by DimGeo ( 694000 ) on Wednesday July 04, 2007 @07:34PM (#19748541) Homepage
        So, they give someone their copyrighted stuff for free and then call that someone a criminal? Doesn't make sense to me :) .
        • Re:uh oh.... (Score:5, Interesting)

          by AntiNazi ( 844331 ) on Wednesday July 04, 2007 @07:56PM (#19748721) Homepage
          What is the actual legal position on this? If the copyright holder gives you the copyrighted work, then how is it a crime for you to take it?
          • Re:uh oh.... (Score:5, Interesting)

            by Babbster ( 107076 ) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (bbabnoraa)> on Wednesday July 04, 2007 @08:20PM (#19748931) Homepage
            It's not. Even the summary covers this: The hook was to get people to download the client which searched for "other copyrighted files." Besides, there's nothing in the story to indicate that they actually did let people download real movies. They might all have been dummy files.
            • by Asztal_ ( 914605 ) on Wednesday July 04, 2007 @08:36PM (#19749083)
              Oh, so I just run it on my virtual machine? cool.
            • Re:uh oh.... (Score:5, Interesting)

              by Mistlefoot ( 636417 ) on Wednesday July 04, 2007 @10:23PM (#19749825)
              The more I think about this the more brilliant it is.

              When you download Kazaa, Limewire or most other clients they offer you the opportunity to scan your harddrive for content to share. That information is then available to the network, essentially reporting home.

              How can anyone claim, in court, that action alone as being illegal? I posted earlier that if it scanned your harddrive it may very well be spyware and as such illegal, but I think I might be wrong on that.
              • Re:uh oh.... (Score:5, Interesting)

                by Alchemar ( 720449 ) on Thursday July 05, 2007 @12:29AM (#19750579)
                As long as the EULA for the software indicates that this is what they are going to do it is fine. If however the say that the software is going to speed up your downloads, it should speed up your downloads. If it does not mention that it also downloads a scanner then it should be clasified as fraud. Just because I install a program that states it will make certain files/information available, does not mean I give permission for every piece of spyware/trojan that wants to access the same information is free to install itself without my permission.

                If the file they do let you download is a dummy file when they told you they were giving you a movie, then it is also fraud.
                • Re:uh oh.... (Score:5, Insightful)

                  by earthbound kid ( 859282 ) on Thursday July 05, 2007 @06:52AM (#19752353) Homepage
                  Hey, it's time for me to bring out my rant against current Unix/Windows permissions systems! Whee.

                  OK, here's the short version: it's good that files on modern OS have access restricted to certain users, but that's not nearly enough. Instead access to files should be further restricted by process so that eg. Firefox only has permission to read/write to its cache, bookmarks, and download folders and that's it. If you need to upload, it should be forced to use a common API to beg the user for permission to even view uploadable files. Why? Well, exactly to stop this sort of exploit where a trojan promises to do something useful, but actually searches (using fancy new Spotlight and Windows Search, no less!) for files called "my CC#s" to send back to the mothership.

                  In other words, I think we should Sandbox Everything.

                  Apparently, SE Linux is trying to do something like this, but OS vendors need to find a way to make this whole process seamless and easy, so that I can right click on an application, go to permissions, and say, "This program I will allow to read my home directory, but only write to its own directories; that one I will let write anywhere, but read only itself" and so on.

                  It will be really hard to implement this in a user friendly way, but it is clearly the necessary next step in computer security. Apple, Microsoft, and (consumer oriented) Linux devs should start working on this now.
          • Re:uh oh.... (Score:5, Interesting)

            by click2005 ( 921437 ) on Wednesday July 04, 2007 @08:30PM (#19749017)
            I'm guessing because Media Defender don't own the copyright on the works. They're employed by the MPAA who also don't own the copyright on these works. Its probably a convenient way to avoid entrapment or whatever legal or copyright issues giving away the media themselves would involve. Its up to the copyright holder to decide who to sue, but its still a very questionable action.

            Although, if Media Defender are financially profiting from illegally offering copyrighted works, I would think they are in a much worse position than any users who downloaded the media.

            I'd be more interested in the legality of the software. It is spyware, reporting personal identifying details about the users. Wouldn't this be an illegal search of some kind even with a ridiculously cryptic/solid looking EULA. I Seriously doubt it would be used in court. Its more likely to be useful as someone else said for hard statistics about actual numbers of users. It would be easy to make the data show anything they wanted, as evidence in an attempt to get even more laws passed. I bet also that more than a few users will soon cease downloading possibly illegal media.

            If this is an attempt to get evidence for lawsuits/collection letters then I hope any users contacted by the MPAA collection squads do fight, as the number of questionable actions made here would I think make it a very hard case for the MPAA to win. Any filenames, metadata, checksums or search queries collected would certainly not be proof of infringement.
            • Re:uh oh.... (Score:5, Insightful)

              by rtb61 ( 674572 ) on Wednesday July 04, 2007 @09:36PM (#19749451) Homepage
              You forget the part in copyright that refers to, or their agents. As the RIAA is an agent of the copyright holders and in the the fake distributors are agents of the RIAA, the it is the agents of the copyright holders who a legally distributing no longer copyrighted works.

              Now of course the criminal action they will have been likely to commit is invading the privacy of 'minors', which is of course where child molester comes from.

              Also where children where using the parents computer and the RIAA agents failed to ensure that the person entering the contract was legally entitled to enter the contract, that failure of jurisprudence results in criminal trespass and technology crimes with regards to hacking computer networks.

              There is also the question of fraudulent misrepresentation as well as entrapment. These people really need to feel the full weight and measure of the law, a few years cooling the heels in jail, should wake them up to the fact that they are not above the law.

              • Re:uh oh.... (Score:4, Insightful)

                by Danse ( 1026 ) on Thursday July 05, 2007 @12:26AM (#19750553)

                There is also the question of fraudulent misrepresentation as well as entrapment.
                It's only entrapment if it's done by the government (e.g. police). Fraudulent, it may be. As for being above the law, it's all about who you know. Just ask Scooter Libby.
      • Copyright infringement is not theft. Someone has to lose something for it to be theft. Copying data is pretty much the opposite of theft.
    • Re:uh oh.... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by dagamer34 ( 1012833 ) on Wednesday July 04, 2007 @07:40PM (#19748589)
      You have to be a government entity to claim entrapment, and that's only in criminal cases. Instead, you'd have to argue that the **AA got their evidence through illegal means, which would normally lead to the case being thrown out without prejudice.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by capologist ( 310783 )

        You have to be a government entity to claim entrapment, and that's only in criminal cases.

        The same principle also applies in civil cases. If the plaintiff intentionally induced the defendant to commit the act for which the plaintiff is now suing, the court is going to take a very dim view of the suit.

        I'm not saying it applies in this case, because I don't know how much "inducement" went on, but the principle is there.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by ari_j ( 90255 )
          In a court of equity, it's called unclean hands []. The same or similar doctrines apply to cases at law (meaning those where you get sued for money damages), depending on your jurisdiction. Also, it may be that there are criminal laws against this sort of Trojan horsery - similar to how the law of false pretenses [] makes it a crime to obtain title to another's property by false pretenses. This could be considered a theft of computer services and/or a trespass to your computer by false pretenses. IANAL, but i
  • Can you say "entrapment" boys and girls? I knew you could.

    OTOH, it's not like the people who would have been caught by this were innocents. I dislike pirates only a bit less than I dislike the scumbag tactics the MPAA and RIAA have been using to try to catch them. I'd have liked to see how they were trying to entice people to pirate movies and how their site was set up before I judged how wrong this was on a scale from 1 to 10.

    • by martin_henry ( 1032656 ) on Wednesday July 04, 2007 @07:13PM (#19748311)
      This is the worst kind of entrapment....the kind WITHOUT Catherine Zeta Jones.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Mistlefoot ( 636417 )
        No. Leave Zeta Jones out of it.

        The worst kind would be "The only catch is, after it was installed, it searched your computer for other copyrighted files and reported back."

        I've read the article and glanced at many google links and does anyone have any evidence of this other then a quote on a website?

        If the MPAA tricked me into downloading a bogus file and stored my ip, well, that would be my fault. Such is life. Everyone who visits my website has their IP recorded too. They have that right.

        If the progra
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          If the program they get me to download is laden with spyware there are laws for that though. This is the only part of the story that concerns me, and I am sure, concerns them.
          It searches, without permission, for files on your computer and then reports what it finds. It is spyware.
    • it's not like the people who would have been caught by this were innocents.

      Really? The MPAA is giving their movies away and you did not take one? Does this cost them their copyright?

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Tony Hoyle ( 11698 )
        In fact they were innocent - the MPAA are acting for the copyright holders, so if they give something away it's completely legal.
    • by GizmoToy ( 450886 ) on Wednesday July 04, 2007 @07:18PM (#19748383) Homepage
      Not to defend the RIAA's actions, but I don't know if you can call it entrapment or not. Entrapment, by definition, involves the police persuading you to commit a crime you wouldn't otherwise commit. This is a private entity catching people committing a crime they would otherwise commit. I don't condone their methods, but I doubt you could successfully adopt an entrapment defense.
      • Mod parent up. Entrapment is a term thrown around quite frequently, but it has an actual legal meaning that is far more narrow than most people understand.

        A court would laugh in the face of anyone claiming this to be entrapment.
        • Cause you have to tell me if you are.

        • by gnasher719 ( 869701 ) on Wednesday July 04, 2007 @08:07PM (#19748799)
          If I understand this correctly, this is something completely different from entrapment and likely to get the RIAA into serious trouble.

          First, if I download copyrighted files from a site run by the RIAA, then this is _completely legal_. What is illegal is downloading such material without permission of the copyright holder. The way this was described, I would have the _permission of the copyright holder.

          Second, if the RIAA installs spyware on my computer, they are in deep shit. Especially if there is nothing illegal on my computer that they could use to blackmail me.

      • by gbulmash ( 688770 ) * <> on Wednesday July 04, 2007 @07:30PM (#19748505) Homepage Journal
        "Not to defend the RIAA's actions, but I don't know if you can call it entrapment or not. Entrapment, by definition, involves the police persuading you to commit a crime you wouldn't otherwise commit. This is a private entity catching people committing a crime they would otherwise commit. I don't condone their methods, but I doubt you could successfully adopt an entrapment defense."

        It's actually an interesting question... The police have successfully put out honeypot cars (attractive and maybe a bit easier to steal than normal) to catch car thieves, and those convictions have been upheld AFAIK.

        OTOH, I remember in a community college class on criminal law, they discussed when the cops sent a guy out with 20 dollar bills visibly hanging from his pockets and pretending to be drunk, arresting people who tried to roll him. That was ruled as entrapment because the cops made him such easy pickings as to induce people to commit a crime.

        That's why I said I'd have liked to see the site. How much the MPAA/MediaDefender did to lure people to the site and then entice them to download content would determine where it fell on the range from honeypot to entrapment.

        -- Greg
      • by Amouth ( 879122 ) on Wednesday July 04, 2007 @07:33PM (#19748535)
        well here comes the question - they own the copyright - they knowingly put their material out there for people to download - and even created a site that inticed people to download it.. as far as i can see they where just giving it away.

        on the other hand they also installed spy ware on users computers without letting them know ahead of time - that is aginst the law in some states - it is on the same lvl as alotof the viruses out there.

        and if they try to doge the the fact that "they" put it out there by saying it was this "company that does the dirty work" then you point the finger and say - hey did this company have distrubution rights? if not then they are in alot of trouble - if so then they gave the stuff away - and if they say that the company doesn't have distrbution rights but what they where doing wasn't violating the their copyright then well damn many people will be happy to see them say that cause that can be applied so many ways..

        all and all this was EXTREAMLY STUPID of them - and i can only pray that they get their asses burned when they try to take someone to court from this thing
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by timmarhy ( 659436 )
        how the fuck do you know they would have commited it if you didn't give them a nice convenient website with family options?
    • this is definately entrapment, because they hold themselfs out as legit. the act of downloading content itself is not illegal, so how would anyone know this site wasn't legal?
    • by gerf ( 532474 ) <> on Wednesday July 04, 2007 @07:24PM (#19748445) Journal

      The problem here is that a person may download and install the program with no intention of copyright violations. However, their computer is scanned likely without their knowledge for other, very possibly legal, files. You'd have to read the agreement, rather than click-through it like usual to know this. If they did not warn of complete scans and information being sent back to their servers, then they probably have committed some sort of computer crime.

      I've ripped my CDs into .mp3 files, as have millions of others with movies and other media. What is their reaction to seeing these files? Are you going to receive their threatening letters in the near future? God only knows, but frankly, it shouldn't be tolerated in the least.

      Hell, if they want to charge you with "theft," charge them back with breaking and entering.

      • by toddestan ( 632714 ) on Wednesday July 04, 2007 @10:40PM (#19749937)
        In this case it is the MPAA doing the spying. Most of the MPAA's content content is distributed on DVDs encrypted with CSS. So unlike CDs where you can legally rip CDs you own to your harddrive, you can't do this for most movies without violating the DMCA by cracking the encryption. So they probably feel pretty safe that if they find any MPAA content on your harddrive (DVD rips), that you've committed some kind of crime.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by DarkOx ( 621550 )

      Can you say "entrapment" boys and girls? I knew you could.

      I doubt it would be entrapment in,

      First off the *IAA is not a government agent or acting as one.

      Second, they are not leading these people to commit the crime. They are just holding the door open. Its like a cop(male or female) can dress as a girl and walk down dark steets at night. If (s)he called out "Come on just try and snatch my purse," to everyone who passed by that might be entrapment, now if you just jump her because she looks like an easy target (s)he can bust your ass and you ARE going to jail.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by EzInKy ( 115248 )

        I know most slashdot'ers look at it the other way but I have always thought that hosting the files is not the issue, that person has done nothing. The downloader is the one actually making the copy, writing out a new file.

        How is the downloader suppose to determine if the file being offered is infringing? If people are just expected to assume that everything is illegal then browsing the web pretty much becomes impossible.
    • Could this not be entrapment because they're looking for pre-existing material? I don't actually know, and I would love to be proven wrong such that the MPAA is, in fact, performing entrapment.

      It seems their philosophy is that it's easier to ask forgiveness than to ask permission. It's like a DoS against the government and the people such that the system can't keep up with the flood of their dubious or illegal actions, and they can otherwise afford to pay fines in exchange for scaring people until there's a
  • EULA (Score:2, Insightful)

    I would think that this process of detection would have to be spelt our pretty clearly in the eula for it to even be feisable for them to try to use this against users.
  • This is obviously cyberterrorism, especially if any government employees download and install that software.
  • by PIPBoy3000 ( 619296 ) on Wednesday July 04, 2007 @07:15PM (#19748325)
    The only catch is, after it was installed, it searched your computer for other copyrighted files and reported back.

    Doesn't this violate various anti-spyware laws? [] For example, here's Illinois' law:

    Creates the Consumer Protection Against Computer Spyware Act. Sets forth provisions for unauthorized collection or culling of personally identifiable information, unauthorized access to or modifications of computer settings and computer damage, unauthorized interference with installation or disabling computer software, and other prohibited conduct. Provides that certain persons may bring a civil action against a violator of the Act. Exempts willful and wanton misconduct from the limitation on liability.
  • If they control distribution of the material and they are providing free downloads, weren't the just giving away their own stuff? Not quite the same way as Prince was [], but still.
    • by QuantumG ( 50515 )
      Who? Media Sentry? What makes you think they have any special right to license big media's copyrights?

      There's a reason why they contract others to do their dirty work.

  • EULA? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by plams ( 744927 )
    Unless an EULA actually states that their software shares your harddisk's contents with another party this it's utterly illegal. Everybody reads the EULA's don't they?
  • by florescent_beige ( 608235 ) on Wednesday July 04, 2007 @07:16PM (#19748351) Journal
    Stories about MPAA shenanigans could just as easily and correctly be entitled, for example, "Sony Sets Up Fake Site..." (Or Disney, or Universal, or Paramount, or Warner). MPAA is, after all, simply their agent in these matters.
  • Ok, so the MPAA and Mediasentry are doing this 'devious' thing. But how will this go when the program suddenly causes computers to go haywire, etc? Can they sue mediasentry et al?
  • First of all, just because the MPAA owns copyright to a movie doesn't mean I can't have a copy of it on my hard drive (or in my DVD library, for that matter).
  • WTF? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by JamesRose ( 1062530 ) on Wednesday July 04, 2007 @07:20PM (#19748407)
    "Perhaps Media Defender won't use its own name on the registrar the next time around, but it just goes to show the lengths at which the MPAA is willing to go, to fight piracy." Illegally install spyware on my fucking machine, search my PRIVATE FILES, oh and then to top it off, with the MPAA the mess that it is in, they'll probably sue you for having a file named "Hostel", you may or may not have stayed in a hostel last year on holiday, but it sure does seem like copyright so we're gunna take your hard disk and have a closer inspection of my PRIVATE FILES!

    Without huge data transfers, they can't fully check a file, so the best they can do is spy on your file names, and steal your documents, not any media files though, I hope people get sued for this I really do, so the MPAA gets screwed with the huge countersuit.
  • by nanosquid ( 1074949 ) on Wednesday July 04, 2007 @07:22PM (#19748429)
    So, if they provide free movie downloads, does that mean I can legally keep it?
  • by tgatliff ( 311583 ) on Wednesday July 04, 2007 @07:23PM (#19748431)
    They knew they were going to eventually get caught. It doesnt take a genius to realize that if "going dark" after 10 hours of the article release that they were anticipating this... And I suspect if the media contacts them, then it will be the classic "the intern did it" type response.... These guys make the russian mafia look good by comparison...
  • by Cordath ( 581672 ) on Wednesday July 04, 2007 @07:30PM (#19748499)
    This incident highlights what is, perhaps, the biggest reason why RIAA has already lost their battle against piracy and the imminent danger the MPAA faces. RIAA could have limited their depredations to only those pirates who mass produce bootlegs for profit. Instead, they went after the blood of their own customers and employed methods that make the pirates look like the good guys. Root kits, law suits, entrapment, price fixing, you name it. The icing on the cake was the knowledge that the only people they screwed over more than the customer was the artists!

    Here in Canada, we have CRIA, which actually managed to get a tax slapped on all recordable media, mp3 players, etc.. Ostensibly, the money collected form this tax is supposed to go to the artists whose incomes are reduced by the evils of all Canadians. It's anyone's guess what CRIA actually does with the loot. Their books are not public. The last time I checked, they weren't paying out bupkiss to indie artists, but aren't they our victims too? As a Canadian, all I see is my money being taken away because I'm a criminal by default and given to the buisness equivalent of the mafia. Bravo!

    I've been boycotting all RIAA/CRIA affiliated labels for years. The way I see it, every penny spent on one of their artist delays the inevitable and gives them another opportunity to do irreparable harm to our laws. However, I still go to the cinema and buy DVD's. Why am I not as concerned about the MPAA? Perhaps it's because they have, to date, not stooped to quite the same levels as RIAA in going after their own customers, even though they're already the scum of the Earth behind the scenes.

    Here's a word to the MPAA. Take a look at the mess RIAA has made of its affairs. You don't want to go down that road.
  • Seriously. Offering something to download and install on your computer to increase the speed? That practically screams 'malware'.
  • FRAUD AND LIES! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Nom du Keyboard ( 633989 ) on Wednesday July 04, 2007 @07:57PM (#19748729)
    Is fraud an acceptable enforcement tactic? Seems to me that if they offer downloads, and are contracted by the movie studios to do exactly this, than any downloads from them are de facto legal.

    And if they spy on your computer otherwise with software that doesn't clearly indicate this in the license agreement, doesn't The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act come into play? Could MediaSentry go down Big Time over this little misstep?

  • by Dachannien ( 617929 ) on Wednesday July 04, 2007 @08:26PM (#19748993)
    it searched your computer for other copyrighted files

    Practically 100% of the files on your computer are copyrighted. Even if those files are music or movies, their mere presence doesn't indicate a breach of copyright. And unless they're transmitting a significant portion of those files back when "phoning home" - and thus running afoul of copyright law themselves in the process, to say nothing of computer trespass laws - merely mentioning the title of a work in a filename or in metadata doesn't authenticate that file as containing what the filename or metadata suggests that it does.

  • Not the real point (Score:4, Interesting)

    by drDugan ( 219551 ) on Wednesday July 04, 2007 @11:46PM (#19750315) Homepage
    Any discussion about US copyright must start with the fact that these folks have paid lawmakers to subvert copyright to make it effectively infinite: 70years + life of the author, or 95/120 years depending on circumstances. These terms are completely absurd and they change the reasons for ALL the behavior in the marketplace of copyright-protected IP.

    There is no rational discussion that can occur about "fair", "legal", "right or wrong", until this time scale for copyright is corrected. It is my opinion that the term should be about 20 years max regardless of circumstances.

  • by kahrytan ( 913147 ) on Thursday July 05, 2007 @10:34AM (#19753893)
    What is so stupid about this sleezy tactic is that there is no guarantee that any videos on a person's hard drive is illegal.

    1. The Movie COULD BE converted using commercial off the self software. Divx Pro can do it along with many others. Just walk into your nearest computer store.
    2. TV Episodes can be recorded via any TV tuner card. Such as WinTV cards.

    The presence of movies and tv episodes on the hard drive doesn't make it illegal.

Marvelous! The super-user's going to boot me! What a finely tuned response to the situation!