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May 26, 2006

Spy v. Spy [11:40 am]

TorrentSpy suit accuses MPAA of hacking

MPAA charged TorrentSpy earlier this year with knowingly facilitating movie piracy. TorrentSpy operates a search engine that allows users to find files online that can be shared using the BitTorrent file sharing system. TorrentSpy argues that it doesn’t host any content and so can’t be charged with illegally distributing files.

The TorrentSpy suit says that the hacker, once an associate of one of the principals of Valence Media, improperly accessed Valence Media email accounts and had emails sent to and from the accounts forwarded to a separate email box that he could access. In doing so, he learned login information and passwords to TorrentSpy servers. Once in the servers, he allegedly copied information about TorrentSpy’s income, expenses, advertising orders and other information about the servers themselves, such as the way TorrentSpy indexes files.

TorrentSpy alleges that in July last year the MPAA paid the hacker US$15,000 for the information. TorrentSpy also alleges that the MPAA told the hacker it didn’t care how he got the information and that it would protect him from any liability in obtaining the information. The suit does not explain how TorrentSpy discovered the information breach.

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LATimes Supports National Telco Video Licensing, Sort Of [8:06 am]

They also point out that their track record isn’t so great: Give the telcos a video hook-up - pdf

The game here, broadly speaking, is TV service. The telecoms want to offer an alternative to cable and satellite TV. These are the same companies that persuaded Congress to rewrite telecommunications law in 1996 to let them compete in the long-distance market. Instead of vying for customers with the leading long-distance companies, however, the regional Bells gobbled up most of them. Meanwhile, the Bells abandoned the fledgling TV services they’d launched in numerous states, saying the effort was too costly.

[...] The prospect of providing more competition to the local cable TV operator is so enticing, it’s tempting to forget all those times the Bells yanked the ball away. They’re certainly right about the need to streamline the franchising process, which can stretch on for years as cities demand a profusion of public-access channels, TV studios and other perks. A better approach would be to create a package of public benefits that telecoms and cable operators would have to provide, tied to the size of the community served.

[...] Still, given the Bells’ track record, lawmakers should be careful not to give telecoms and cable operators carte blanche. With the issue bogging down in Congress, chances are that Sacramento will move on a bill, coauthored by Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez (D-Los Angeles), that would allow them into the market for TV services before Washington acts. Here’s hoping that Californians actually get to kick the football.

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Clearing Copyrights [7:52 am]

Rights renewed, ‘Eyes on the Prize’ returns [pdf]

“Eyes on the Prize,” which chronicles the history of the civil rights movement, was first shown in 1987 but has not been rerun since 1993, after which rights to much of the abundant archival footage in the series expired.

After an arduous process of renewing rights, the first part of the series is scheduled to run in two-hour blocks on Oct. 2, 9, and 16 on WGBH’s “American Experience.”

Henry Hampton and his South End-based Blackside Inc., the largest black-owned documentary film company at the time the film came out , produced the two-part, 14-hour series, which won numerous awards. The first six hours took 10 years to fund and produce. The second part will be aired at a future date, a spokeswoman for PBS said.

[...] The clearance rights for the astounding amount of material, which had originally been negotiated to be used for varying periods of time by Blackside, gradually expired.

It took four or five years to raise $915,000 for research, rights clearance, and post-production costs, said Sandra Forman, Blackside attorney and director of the “Eyes on the Prize” Renewal Project.

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