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MPAA RIAA Mercenaries Have Shady Activities Exposed

by September 19, 2007
Stop Downloading or the Dog Gets It!

Stop Downloading or the Dog Gets It!

According to stories surfacing in The Wall Street Journal, Ars Technica, and others, a company called MediaDefender has sprung a leak of internal electronic correspondence that reveals some of the interesting activities the company engages in and with whom.

Over the weekend, a group calling itself MediaDefender-Defenders began circulating over 700 MB of internal company email and an interesting phone conversation on the web. The content appears to have been intercepted by employee snafu and shows the involvement of top executives at the company with the many dubious activities of MediaDefender.

By releasing these emails we hope to secure the privacy and personal integrity of all peer-to-peer users. The emails contain information about the various tactics and technical solutions for tracking p2p users, and disrupt p2p services,”

A special thanks to Jay Maris, for circumventing their entire email-security by forwarding all your emails to your gmail account”

MediaDefender-Defenders

What we find is that MediaDefender is basically a server for hire, mercenaries. The company’s clients include Universal Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Virgin Records, HBO, Paramount Pictures, BMG, and most recently, the office of the NY Attorney General.

Boasting an array of 2000 servers and a 9Gbps dedicated Internet connection, MediaDefender hires out to movie studios, record labels, and any others with money who would like to impose their own form of justice on file sharing networks.

The Many Faces of 'Big Brother'

Media companies claim to hire the service as a way to combat illegal piracy by making it difficult to download pirated content. But, as neither the various media company clients nor MediaDefender have any actual law enforcement authority, the actions taken are vigilante in nature, which is also viewed as an illegal activity, at least in the real world. The abstractions of cyberspace obscure the identical but parallel nature internet vigilantism for many, but as in the real world, Due Process must be served by officers of the law. MediaDefender is nothing more than the ‘posse’ out for a lynchin’.

The New York Attorney General (AG), Andrew Cuomo, also appears interested in MediaDefender's services to allow him to troll the Internet and drum up some ‘business’; make it look like he’s doing his job. In an attempt to make an end run around Due Process and standards that would not hold up to the Exclusionary Rule derived from the Fourth Amendment, the AG is interested in MediaDefender’s ability to collect personally identifiable Internet usage data to see if there are any criminals about. The Fourth Amendment only binds the government to Probable Cause, Warrants, and all that other stuff about lawful collection of evidence, but not private entities. So apparently the idea is to hire out to such a private entity to conduct activities that would be unlawful for the AG.

I seem to recall something about Accessory to a crime that I am sure the AG would be more than happy to charge citizens with when acting as a third party to illegal activity. While the private entities are not bound to legal restrictions on collecting evidence, its one thing if the entity does so of its own accord, but when hired by the AG, seems the same standards should be applied.

MediaDefender: Services Rendered

MediaDefender, and other companies such as MediaSentry, render their services by bogging down P2P networks with their computing resources. They attempt to overload file distributors, resulting in denial of service and also seed decoys, fake files for download that both fill the networks with traffic and leave downloaders with useless files. MediaDefender’s questionable methods include:

These activities are considered violations of the Internet Architecture Board's Internet ethics policy document RFC 1087:

An extract of RFC 1087 follows:

The IAB strongly endorses the view of the Division Advisory Panel of the National Science Foundation Division of Network, Communications Research and Infrastructure which, in paraphrase, characterized as unethical and unacceptable any activity which purposely:

  • Seeks to gain unauthorized access to the resources of the Internet.

  • Disrupts the intended use of the Internet.

  • Wastes resources (people, capacity, computer) through such actions.

  • Destroys the integrity of computer-based information.

  • Compromises the privacy of users.

Wikipedia: Internet Ethics

Many of the above activities are considered illegal in most countries, falling under definitions of cybercrime or computer crime.

Here we also see the most likely source for data used by the RIAA’s boilerplate litigation campaign against college students sharing files.

The Email Leak

The leak has exposed over six months worth of MediaDefender's activities:

  • names of clients

  • fee schedules

  • Internet disruption activities

  • covert development of bogus websites

  • damage control efforts and denial of said sites

  • tracking software activities

  • corporate espionage activities

MediaDefender was exposed earlier this year by a blogger at TorrentFreak.com who linked them to a fake video file sharing site called MiiVi, despite pains to hide the origins of the site. Created at the behest of the MPAA, MiiVi was intended to entrap users with the offer of high speed downloads of hit movies. The fake site would install tracking software onto user’s computers under the guise of client program required for the high speed downloading. The bogus software operates as a Trojan Horse delivering spyware that would snoop around the user’s computer, looking for copyright infringing files and then report back to MediaDefender and their clients.

After being discovered, MiiVi was taken down by MediaDefender who, along with the MPAA, then engaged in a campaign of denial and attempted to discredit the source of the discovery. The damage control efforts undertaken went as far as attempting to remove reference to MediaDefender’s tie to WiiVi in Wikipedia.

After being discovered the first time, MediaDefender apparently tried again under a new domain, Viide, which has now also been exposed by the email leak.

The Bad and The Ugly

MediaDefender’s tactics are identical to what Internet ‘criminals’ use when they grow a bot net of zombie computes using malware to control enough computing power and bandwidth that they can launch attacks on Internet sites and commercial networks. They only difference is that MediaDefender directly owns its computing power rather than borrowing it.

While it is commonly believed that much of the traffic on P2P networks is related to illegal copyright infringement, determining such as truth for each individual case is up to the Sheriff and the Justice of the Peace, not the MPAA or the RIAA and their Internet mercs to decide. Even if, after proper legal investigation, such were the case, not all of the traffic is illegal, so any legitimate users become victims of this vigilante action.

So when is it OK to thwart certain (presumed) illegal activities with other illegal activities?

According the MPAA and the RIAA: whenever acting as such benefits the bottom line.

The future is going to be wonderful.

About the author:

Professionally, David engineers building structures. He is also a musician and audio enthusiast. David gives his perspective about loudspeakers and complex audio topics from his mechanical engineering and HAA Certified Level I training.

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Recent Forum Posts:

AbyssalLoris posts on May 29, 2008 14:39
David Waratuke, post: 311539
In the abstraction of cyberspace, they have hired mercenaries to go and conduct raids to disrupt operation, plant spying devices, decoys, etcetera. So what is next, the MPAA hires their own paramilitary police force to conduct raids on the supposed criminal’s homes, confiscate their computers for pirated files?

The difference is only in degree, not in kind.


You put it very well David. This is precisely what I felt, and when you said that the difference was ‘only in degree, not in kind’, those were also the exact same words I would have used to describe the situation.
DavidW posts on September 21, 2007 15:15
fmw, post: 311609
Ignoring or violating laws because we don't like them leads to anarchy. Really bad idea. However, if the RIAA etc. are breaking the law then they should be hauled into court and sued just like the defendants in their suits. If there were any money it, the class action lawyers would be all atwitter with excitement. But there isn't any real money it.

I'm defending what these outfits do, not how they do it. I'm not condoning their illegal activities any more than I condone violating copyright laws.

These outfits have no legal right to do what they do, irrespective if it is in the name of justice to prevent some other crime.

If MediaDefender is a properly licensed private investigator, then the MPAA can have them hand the ‘evidence’ over to the authorities.

But they don't, they take the law into their own hands and exact justice by a method of their choosing.

And if one spends some time with the term Anarchy, one will come to realize that it does not mean some sort of chaotic, violent, lawless state. It just means without a formal government or explicit leaders.

Technically, if we had a true direct democracy in this country, rather than a representative republic, it would be closer to anarchy than one might think.

In 18th century historical usages, especially when considering the works of the Founding Fathers of the United States, the word “democracy” was associated with radical equalitarianism and was often defined to mean what we today call direct democracy. In the same historical context, the word “republic” was used to refer to what we now call representative democracy.
Wikipedia: Democracy


The word “anarchy” is often used by non-anarchists as a pejorative term, intended to connote a lack of control and a negatively chaotic environment.

Wikipedia: Anarchy
The lawless activities that MediaDefender takes on behalf of the MPAA and the RIAA are closer to the ‘Anarchy’ being implied here.

This type of behavior is the basis for the wild west analogy in reference to the internt. Back then it was the law of the gun, now justice is dispensed by server and malware.
fmw posts on September 21, 2007 14:38
Ignoring or violating laws because we don't like them leads to anarchy. Really bad idea. However, if the RIAA etc. are breaking the law then they should be hauled into court and sued just like the defendants in their suits. If there were any money it, the class action lawyers would be all atwitter with excitement. But there isn't any real money it.

I'm defending what these outfits do, not how they do it. I'm not condoning their illegal activities any more than I condone violating copyright laws.
DavidW posts on September 21, 2007 13:21
fmw, post: 311424
In other words we should ignore the law because we don't like it?

I assume this comment was directed at the earlier comment by sholling who was disparaging certain laws enacted by lobbyist and other corporate interest for the Recording and Movie Industries.

The MPAA, the RIAA, and others who hire the likes of MediaDefender and their ilk are also ignoring the law.

While downloading copyrighted material is illegal so is taking the law into your own hands as the MPAA and the RIAA have done by hiring this company to apply justice for them. I thought I had made this abundantly clear, but perhaps not.

In the abstraction of cyberspace, they have hired mercenaries to go and conduct raids to disrupt operation, plant spying devices, decoys, etcetera. So what is next, the MPAA hires their own paramilitary police force to conduct raids on the supposed criminal’s homes, confiscate their computers for pirated files?

The difference is only in degree, not in kind.

The Internet Architecture Board, an international public entity that grew out of a US Department of Defense program called Defense Advanced Research Projects Agancy, Internet Configuration Control Board, defines the actions consistent with the actions of MediaDefender as unethical and unacceptable.

Most countries, including our own, prosecute hackers for doing what MediaDefender does. Should MediaDefender be treated differently because they are incorporated and do this at the behest of other corporations? No.

For those who have not put two and two together, MediaDefenders efforts to bog down P2P sites doesn’t just affect file sharers engaged in illegal activity.

All that bandwidth that MediaDefender uses has to pass through the information superhighway to get there. It bogs down the entire internet, perhaps not much across the whole system, but it uses capacity up none the less. Ever wonder why sometimes one’s broadband connection seems slower than other times, web pages seem to take a longer to load? MediaDefender affects every server and connection between them and their target, perhaps crossing your path.

Who is the MPAA to decide who is criminal and who is not, even if they do have some sort of evidence? Every citizen of the US is entitled to Due Process of the Law, not punishment at the hands of vigilantes who think such persons have committed a crime.

The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution:

No person shall be … deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law ….

The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution:

No State shall … deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law …
Wikipedia: Due Process

I have never seen it stated anywhere that Due Process includes the action of vigilantes. If file sharing is deemed illegal, it is a legal matter and up to the legally designated authorities to handle.

For that matter, is MediaDefender properly and legally licensed as a private investigator as required in most states?

Sholling is correct in his statements about the historical intent of the provisions for copyright and patents as intended by the founding fathers as careful study of American history and the constitution would reveal.

The Music Industry has long existed by means of legalizing theft by making artist sign over rights to the music label who owns the work, not the artist. No file downloader is stealing from any artist who works for the traditional record industry because the label, not the artist, owns they copyright.

Robert Fripp of King Crimson, tired of what the labels were doing to him and with his work began the Discipline Global Mobile label to run contrary to the Music Industry and their common practices. All of the following is from DGM’s web site:

DGM Copyright Statement (1994).

The phonographic copyright in these performances is operated by Discipline Global Mobile on behalf of the artist and compositor, with whom it resides, contrary to common practice in the record industry. Discipline accepts no reason for artists to assign the copyright interests in their work to either record company or management by virtue of a “common practice” which was always questionable, often improper, and is now indefensible.

Members of the public not familiar with the norm might not know this common practice: the artist pays to record the album, generally on an advance provided by the record company. This advance is then recouped from artist royalties (which are subject to limitations in accordance with “company policy”) and the album is owned by the record company. The record company owns the artist's work, for which the artist paid. If the record company, or owner of the company, sells the catalogue or the company itself, the artist receives nothing for their work, even though the artist paid for it to be made.

The copyrights of the compositions rest with the performer and post-performance compositor. Crimson Music recognizes no valid or ethical reason to assign them to publisher or manager as an inevitable, necessary or useful part of the business of collecting publishing royalties.

The artists affirm their moral rights to be acknowledged the authors of these works, subject always to the operation of grace.

Let us sadly acknowledge, in the spirit of preparing the future and repairing the past, that the publishing industry and music industry has often and repeatedly failed to treat its artists honourably, equitably and with common decency. There are too many instances of abuse, exploitation and the betrayal of trust for us to view this world with equanimity, confidence or ease.

Actions from the past which we now view with regret, including our own, may yet be addressed: they are reparable, they are forgivable; they are not excusable, they are not acceptable. To do otherwise is to place ourselves outside the natural circle of healing. This is truly terrifying.

Cynicism and bitterness are natural, reasonable and likely responses for anyone, whether performer or audient, who knows a close relationship with those who control money flows within the music industry; music can be a gate to Paradise, but cynicism holds us at the threshold.

Incidentally, Frank Zappa’s second album is named ‘Absolutely Free’, not for any hippie reference current with the times, but because his first album did not make enough money to pay off the record label so he effectively made the album for them for absolutely free.

About DGM

The fifth aim of DGM is to be a model of ethical business in an industry founded on exploitation, oiled by deceit, riven with theft and fueled by greed.

If a small company, which aims to be true, can succeed in the music industry there is hope for others. We each support each other without necessarily seeing or knowing how this might be, or when it occurs. But on the level where things are true, this is true.

Any business will be successful if it provides its customers with either what they want or what they need. If the public needs what it wants, or wants what it needs, the business will be very successful. In this sense public taste can redirect and reconstitute our business culture. There is hope in this.

The formal view of Crimson Music and DGM is that business practices, although widespread and “common practice”, which seek to deprive the creative element of its authority, and artists of the benefit of their work, are short-sighted and immoral.

Any culture whose artists are directed or controlled by commercial interests is in mortal danger. Any artist directed or controlled by commercial interests is in mortal danger. Any artist willingly directed or controlled by commercial interests is not to be trusted.

The history of the music industry is a history of exploitation and theft.

There are legitimate uses for P2P networks, damaging them for supposed illegal activity becomes collateral to legal use, but I am sure the labels don’t care if an independent is impeded collaterally:

About DGM Live

DGM Live utilizes the latest in peer-to-peer technologies to deliver large music files across the internet. Files are distributed using BitTorrent, a file distribution utility that can dramatically increase the speed of your download by retrieving your content not only from DGM's servers but from fellow downloaders simultaneously. Download it now.

In addition to BitTorrent downloads, you may also download your files directly from your web browser.

I don’t advocate stealing anything, but the record labels can eat s***, the same s*** they have served to artists for decades.
sholling posts on September 21, 2007 12:47
Ignore is a good choice of words. That doesn't mean I violate it. I would never post copyrighted material illegally. But I do give out a cheer for everyone that sticks it to RIAA (an illegal cartel) and the MPAA and will continue to do so until the cartels are broken up and the quid pro quo balance is restored. I'll also cheer as the cartel's shady minions get exposed and hopefully busted . I'll also cheer on the innocent soccer moms and gray haired grannies that beat up cartel's extortionists in court and in the court of public opinion.
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