A lawsuit filed last year by TorrentSpy–a BitTorrent search engine–that accused the movie studios trade group of intercepting the companys private e-mails, was tossed out of court last week.
But while a U.S. District judge found that the Motion Picture Association of America had not violated the federal Wiretap Act, as TorrentSpys attorneys had argued, the MPAA acknowledged in court records that it paid $15,000 to obtain private e-mails belonging to TorrentSpy executives.
The MPAAs acknowledgement is significant because it comes at a time when the group is trying to limit illegal file sharing by imploring movie fans to act ethically and resist the temptation to download pirated movies. To critics, the revelation by the MPAA is a possible sign that the organization is itself not above adopting unethical practices in its fight against file sharing.
“Ethically, its pretty clear that reading other peoples e-mail is wrong,” said Lorrie Cranor, an associate research professor and Internet privacy expert at Carnegie Mellon University. “Being offered someone elses e-mails by a third party should have been a red flag.”
But seriously, there are some troubling things here: Legal woes mount for TorrentSpy:
“Essentially, one can do ongoing surveillance of another party’s e-mails without their consent and not violate the law,” [EFF’s Kevin] Bankston said. “Not only does this open the door to privacy abuses in civil cases but it also could lead to abuses by the government…It’s an incredibly dangerous decision.”