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Has RIAA Fired MediaSentry? 76

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the good-riddance dept.
NewYorkCountryLawyer writes "According to a tantalizing 'unconfirmed' report, it appears that the RIAA has jettisoned MediaSentry (now known as SafeNet) as its 'investigator.' MediaSentry has come under heat in a number of different states for the fact that it was 'investigating' without an investigator's license and invading people's privacy. Earlier this year it was found to have made diametrically conflicting written statements to two different tribunals within 30 days of each other, in one denying that it was an 'expert witness,' in another claiming that it was an 'expert witness.' If the report is accurate, the termination comes at an interesting time, since MediaSentry's investigator is the plaintiffs' only fact witness to prove copyright infringement in Capitol Records v. Thomas, which is now headed for a retrial on March 9th. If he does take the stand, the reasons for his company's termination will be fair game for cross examination. One also has to wonder if it's in any way connected to the puzzling enigma of the New York Attorney General's alleged involvement in the RIAA's recent Wall Street Journal announcement that it would be reducing its p2p file sharing cases to a trickle."
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Has RIAA Fired MediaSentry?

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  • So... (Score:5, Funny)

    by drakethegreat (832715) on Friday January 02, 2009 @03:16PM (#26303051) Homepage
    They are putting all their eggs in the ISP enforcement basket. I'm sure that will do wonders.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      That's what it seems, yes. This move totally fits in with everything else, including the ISP enforcement stuff.

      This is interesting, though, because I think it means they've found a way to force (or at least entice) ISPs to comply with their demands.

    • by mfh (56) on Friday January 02, 2009 @03:46PM (#26303375) Journal

      I predict that the ISPs who get smart and offer superior anonymity for their customers, will thrive in 2009 and beyond.

      • ...assuming the big ISPs would allow such a thing within the bounds of their natural monoplies...

        • by BlueStrat (756137) on Friday January 02, 2009 @04:18PM (#26303729)

          ...assuming the big ISPs would allow such a thing within the bounds of their natural monoplies...

          They may not have any choice. It's possible that the RIAA got a heads-up from the NY AG on plans to pass legislation to force ISPs to become copyright enforcers or otherwise assist Big Media in policing the 'net. We've got both houses of Congress and the Presidency in the Democrats' hands now, and they've had a history of taking large contributions from, and attempting to pass legislation friendly to, Hollywood and the music industry so something like this should be no surprise to anyone. Get ready for DMCA/PIRATE/PRO-IP Act Part Deaux?

          Cheers!

          Strat

          • Get ready for DMCA/PIRATE/PRO-IP Act Part Deaux?

            I think you mean "Part Deux", unless you are referring to a certain commune in the Gard department in southern France...

            • by BlueStrat (756137)

              I think you mean "Part Deux", unless you are referring to a certain commune in the Gard department in southern France...

              My bad. Spell-check wouldn't give me a decent answer, and I was too lazy to Google it.

              Cheers!

              Strat

              • by Culture20 (968837)
                OT: that's one of the worst things I've noticed about recent OSS spellcheckers. Common words used in English that are borrowed from French or German are excluded from the English spelling dictionaries. Adding all the words from all dictionaries isn't a good solution because if I accidentally mistype "is" as "ist" I want that to be highlighted.
              • Get ready for DMCA/PIRATE/PRO-IP Act Part Deaux?

                I took it to be a subtle Simpsons reference ... as in "Part Doh!"

          • by mfh (56)

            America Against Greed.

            If you build it, they will come.

          • by KwKSilver (857599)
            Part Deaux? part deux? try "deuxieme partie," s'il vous plait [dropped the accents deliberately, as they got mangled in the preview]. Hmmh, have I just become a mots-Nazi, yech!
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by 313373_bot (766001)

        Isn't that wishful thinking? A scenario where most if not all ISPs become copyright enforcers (maybe under new laws), and just a handful of scapegoats (paying costumers) are sacrificed once in a while - just enough to keep the masses fearful - seems as possible.

        • Not just as possible but actually more likely, given recent changes in EU law that requires ISPs to protocol where their users connect to.

          In the name of anti-terrorism, of course.

      • by roc97007 (608802) on Friday January 02, 2009 @09:52PM (#26307743) Journal

        That might be true in isolated cases. More likely, customers will acquire superior anonymity on their own. Keep in mind that during all this time the RIAA has won one (1) case (which I believe is under appeal) and meanwhile a million geeks at a million terminals have had all that time to code and test the means to make detection and prevention more difficult. In technical issues, geeks tend to win over suits in the long run, and it seems to me that the suits are lagging far behind this time.

  • by mrchaotica (681592) * on Friday January 02, 2009 @03:17PM (#26303059)

    ...from a cannon, into the Sun!

  • by spazdor (902907) on Friday January 02, 2009 @03:17PM (#26303069)

    Eventually, companies must come to recognize their liabilities as liabilities, right?

  • Big deal. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by girlintraining (1395911) on Friday January 02, 2009 @03:18PM (#26303083)

    If MediaSentry blinked out of existence tomorrow because of [lawsuit,lack of business,elvis], it wouldn't change anything. It's a company with perhaps fifty grunts, another 20 or so management personnel, and another thirty or so doing support or paralegal. It's a shell company, created by the recording industry for the recording industry. If MediaSentry implodes, they'll just setup another shell company and new personnel. To have any lasting impact, it's not MediaSentry that needs to go away, but the monentary incentive for it to exist in the first place.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Paradise Pete (33184)

      If MediaSentry implodes, they'll just setup another shell company and new personnel. To have any lasting impact, it's not MediaSentry that needs to go away, but the monentary incentive for it to exist in the first place.

      No doubt the tools will survive, but it is going to be mighty tricky to have them testify in any current cases, as the dirty laundry will come to light.

    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I actually interviewed at Mediasentry once. There were several "whiter" spots behind their sign in the office complex. I imagine if I were to compare the relative whiteness of the spots, I could tell how many times they've changed names.

      Indeed, if I didn't read slashdot, I'd have thought I had the wrong address.

      Despite hitting it off with the geeks by having a fun chat about being unfriendly in bittorrent but still encouraging peers to direct their bandwidth our way(yes, scummy, but I like being paid), I

    • by EdIII (1114411) *

      Maybe the reason why MediaSentry is blinking out of existence is that the RIAA lacks the funding to pay them anymore. MediaSentry is a financial sinkhole for them. All that hardware and bandwidth is not cheap. Data centers are not cheap to locate yourself in.

      With the recent recession and dwindling revenue streams funding the RIAA it may be no surprise that they are just running out of steam. After all, lawyers make MediaSentry look pocket change.

      So it might be possible that RIAA CAN'T set up another she

    • If MediaSentry implodes, they'll just setup another shell company and new personnel.

      Perhaps, but if they create the new shell company in the same mould as MediaSentry (aka SafeNet...why do they bother changing names? Do they think in the age of the Internet that nobody will recognize them?) then they will fall victim to the same sort of sanctions. If the RIAA wanted to finance a company with licensed investigators in all 50 US states then it wouldn't be cheap and their whole strategy, on many levels, revolves around cheapness (that is why the try to withdraw from casses once the cost benef

  • Anybody surprised? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by slugtastic (1437569) on Friday January 02, 2009 @03:25PM (#26303163)
    MediaSentry was in deep pile of shit for a long time. Every news about MediaSentry was about how much they fail. I have no idea how they were able to exist for so long. I dont even need to look far [torrentfreak.com] to find something bad about MediaSentry. Although, come to think of it, MediaSentry helped the pirate community alot by giving a bad name to all the companies that tried to "kill" piracy.

    I'm confused, should I love or hate them?
  • History lessons (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Aphoxema (1088507) on Friday January 02, 2009 @03:30PM (#26303221) Homepage Journal

    It looks like the RIAA really are letting go of their epic battlez against the (probably more average than most people admit) consumer, but everyone knew they would have to give up on the litigation eventually. The fact is the RIAA succeeded in getting what they wanted; they made more people aware of the significance in copyright.

    They might also have engineered the destruction for themselves, the MPAA and the BSA and SPA and all the other copyright alliances and associations. Now that people are aware of the threat of getting caught, they've improved on encryption, decentralization, legal disclaimers, and just good old fighting back.

    This will be another lesson of history, the Trojan invasion taught us to not trust 30 foot horses (just 30 meg software), World War II taught us that it only takes a couple of nuclear explosions to end a war (that was already decided), and this has taught us that you shouldn't underestimate the enemy even when it doesn't involves swords and guns.

    • Highway Patrol (Score:3, Insightful)

      I figure if it works for the Highway Patrol, it can work for the RIAA. Their business model is to harass the states consumers (citizens) to achieve the kind of behavior that they want. Which is exactly what the RIAA gets though MediaSentry or any other company they hire to do their dirty work. The reality is that their direct activity stops maybe very very few violators a year per capita; but the fear they create due to the fallout of getting caught does 100 or 1000 fold. The CHP costs California $1.9 billi [ca.gov]
      • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Actually the CHP and other State Police types do a lot more than just hand out traffic tickets. Anyone who thinks otherwise really just does not know what they are talking about. Even spending 5 minutes on Wikipedia will show you just how busy some can be.

        I know in WA the state police rarely pull people over unless there is a APB out on the car or the guy is doing like 80 in a 50. I will admit, that for a few days every month during the 3 months of sunshine we get there will be a Trooper with a radar gun

  • No Doubt Walkaway (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Nom du Keyboard (633989) on Friday January 02, 2009 @03:31PM (#26303231)
    No doubt the RIAA hopes that when they walk away from MediaSentry that somehow all their problems with them will be left behind. Seldom is life so simple.

    Now all we need is a disgruntled ex-MediaSentry employee to spill the beans on their entire Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain operation while we start picking apart MS's replacement.
  • by Weaselmancer (533834) on Friday January 02, 2009 @03:55PM (#26303465)

    For two reasons.

    Reason the first, it's an unconfirmed report. Could be as valid as a release date for Duke Nukem Forever.

    Reason the second. The RIAA isn't going to give up. If they are ditching MediaSentry that just means they have some other idea that they think will net them better results. What replaces it might be worse. So celebrating at this point would be a lot like the people of Hiroshima in WWII rejoicing that the US has stated they have halted their conventional bombing campaign.

    The good news is that maybe the "better idea" referenced above is the RIAA is shifting focus to cooperation with ISPs. Granted, it's another doomed idea but at least this way they won't be sending subpoenas to printers and deaf grandmothers. Hopefully.

    Another good thing that may come of it is maybe someone will finally bring suit against MediaSentry for privacy violation and investigating without a license. If the RIAA cuts them loose they won't have the financial backing necessary to defend. And if we're really lucky, they'll get nailed for it. And if we're really really lucky, their employer will be found liable as well. Just because you cut ties with someone doesn't mean that your legal responsibilities are cut as well. IANAL though, so take that with a grain of salt.

    Still though it's an interesting development and one I hope turns out to be true.

    • by anagama (611277)

      Have you been reading "The Diamond Age" recently?

      Point, the second. Excellent Sig.

      • Thanks =)

        Nope, never read it. I don't have as much spare time as I used to (wife, kids, etc). Reading a whole book would be an unimaginable luxury.

        If I may ask, why? Something in my post mirror the book?

        • by anagama (611277)
          Yes -- it was written in a victorian style. If you ever do get a chance to read it, or listen to the unabridged book on tape as I've done, I'd highly recommend it. The book on tape is exceptionally well done.
  • by swschrad (312009) on Friday January 02, 2009 @03:57PM (#26303473) Homepage Journal

    as long as the mafiaa continues to use illegal investigative techniques, they can't get a clean case to try. that's why they want to try and make the ISPs squealers, try and get out from under the stain.

    won't work, we see the shoes behind the curtain clearly now.

  • by whisper_jeff (680366) on Friday January 02, 2009 @04:01PM (#26303513)
    In other news, a new company (name yet to be decided upon) has sprung up. This new company offers big media corporations investigative services for online "crimes". Applications for employment are being reviewed but, at this time, this new company is not looking to hire staff as all positions will be filled by experienced individuals who have conducted similar work for "another" company in the same field.

    Totally new company. Honest. New name to be announced real soon. New. Completely new. Totally different.

    Would we lie to you?
  • by cdrguru (88047) on Friday January 02, 2009 @04:14PM (#26303651) Homepage

    Requiring some sort of private investigator's license to perform any sort of "investigation" of computers is a really, really bad idea. This has been implemented in a few states and I don't think it is having the desired outcome.

    Read Bando v. Gates - it is all over the Internet [harvard.edu]. It is a very interesting read about someone completely unqualified performing an digital forensic investigation. This is what the "licensing" is supposed to prevent. It also virtually eliminates the possibility of someone being able to perform investigations in multiple states because of the absurd licensing requirements. You see, this is done on a state-by-state basis. Texas may require firearms traning for all licensed investigators while some other state does not. This doesn't help the quality of digital investigations. It only hurts.

    I would consider the possibility of someone actually being prosecuted for an unlicensed investigation when they never set foot in the state to be very low. Having their expert witness status rejected is another matter but not one to be taken lightly. If expert witnesses must be licensed, then do not expect to be allowed to testify about your own computer in a licensing-required state.

    What this sort of licensing is supposed to do is increase accountability of computer forensic examiners. What it in fact does is restrict the pool of such examiners to a very small group and says nothing about the quality or abilities of those people. Other than their ability to put up with completely unrelated requirements, such as firearms training for a computer investigator. The result of this is certainly going to be that you are not qualified to provide any information about your own computer in any sort of legal matter without such a license. Sure, the license may only be required to perform an investigation when it is a paid service, but that says nothing about expert witness qualification.

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The whole point behind the licensing is make sure those investigators follow state laws and are held accountable when they fail to do so. It also prevents you from hiring your friend to stalk your ex-wife.

      No state requires PIs to carry a firearm, thats just silly. In fact, most states discourage PIs from carrying. CCWs don't go hand and hand with investigator licenses, they are applied for separately.

      Requiring a company like them to be a licensed PI makes total sense. They are investigating private citi

    • by sumdumass (711423) on Friday January 02, 2009 @05:54PM (#26304815) Journal

      Requiring some sort of private investigator's license to perform any sort of "investigation" of computers is a really, really bad idea. This has been implemented in a few states and I don't think it is having the desired outcome.

      The requirement fixes problems were evidence is tainted or misapplied and innocent people look guilty because of it. It's desired outcome is that innocent people aren't being wrongly accused and facing jail terms for stuff they didn't commit.

      Read Bando v. Gates - it is all over the Internet. It is a very interesting read about someone completely unqualified performing an digital forensic investigation. This is what the "licensing" is supposed to prevent. It also virtually eliminates the possibility of someone being able to perform investigations in multiple states because of the absurd licensing requirements. You see, this is done on a state-by-state basis. Texas may require firearms traning for all licensed investigators while some other state does not. This doesn't help the quality of digital investigations. It only hurts.

      No, the licensing is supposed to prevent mishandling of evidence and incorrect statements about people. The guy can be a complete idiot and be licenses. The license only means you know how to handle the chain of evidence and how to communicate it properly.

      I would consider the possibility of someone actually being prosecuted for an unlicensed investigation when they never set foot in the state to be very low. Having their expert witness status rejected is another matter but not one to be taken lightly. If expert witnesses must be licensed, then do not expect to be allowed to testify about your own computer in a licensing-required state.

      You can testify about your own computers all you want. The licensing happens to matter when your tracking other people and making statements about them. Imagine getting fired because the IT guy saw porn on your computer and it turns out to be because it was infected with something that should have been removed by the AV software that he hasn't updated in 2 years. There has been more then one case of this, one was a school teacher who through an error of the IT department, ended up with an infection that showed pornographic pop ups to children and she was facing 40 years in prison.

      What this sort of licensing is supposed to do is increase accountability of computer forensic examiners. What it in fact does is restrict the pool of such examiners to a very small group and says nothing about the quality or abilities of those people. Other than their ability to put up with completely unrelated requirements, such as firearms training for a computer investigator. The result of this is certainly going to be that you are not qualified to provide any information about your own computer in any sort of legal matter without such a license. Sure, the license may only be required to perform an investigation when it is a paid service, but that says nothing about expert witness qualification.

      The license requirements say nothing about the quality of the forensic investigators. It's sort of like driving, a Drivers license says nothing about someone's ability to drive, just that they knew the rules of the road enough and was able to drive well enough at one time to pass the tests. The Licensing requirements or more for the chain of evidence and how it can be used along with what can or can't be said or done about it. The license is of little difference then a regular PI license in most states, some have a little more laxed rules but it is on the same levels.

      I think your expecting the license to be something like an A+ or MCSE certification (which is a joke too) when it isn't. It's more like a fishing license so they can say you know what your limit and size slot is and can find out who you are when they decide to harass you.

  • After losing their largest revenue source, SafeNet announced that it will shutter it doors. In a separate news conference, the RIAA announced that it will be hiring a new startup firm named MediaSafeSentryNet as their new investigative unit and that "big changes" are in the works...
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Panaflex (13191)

      Not bloody likely that... Safenet produces a big chunk of crypto hardware for the government, focusing on Type 1 encryption solutions.

      How Safenet got involved with Mediasentry has got to be the weirdest story of the decade IMHO.

  • by Arthur Grumbine (1086397) on Friday January 02, 2009 @04:19PM (#26303743) Journal
    Anyone else get the hilariously ironic "Report Software Piracy" ad banner? Apparently the potential earnings are up to $1,000,000. And I thought it capped out at $100,000 only a year ago...
    • Re:Ad Banner Humor (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Dishevel (1105119) on Friday January 02, 2009 @04:37PM (#26303961)

      Anyone else get the hilariously ironic "Report Software Piracy" ad banner? Apparently the potential earnings are up to $1,000,000. And I thought it capped out at $100,000 only a year ago...

      There are ads on /. ? Strange. I have never seen one.

    • Apparently some of the sharp minds behind MediaSentry got transferred to the Marketing department, and some others to accounting.
      • Apparently some of the sharp minds behind MediaSentry got transferred to the Marketing department, and some others to accounting.

        Lowering the average IQ of both groups, no doubt.

        Took me a moment to figure that could actually be the reason behind MediaSentry's financial woes. Good joke, Voyager529.

  • 1. Set up a company hunting pirates for you.
    2. Push the envelop 'til the company gets in trouble with the law itself [slashdot.org].
    3. Take note where you pushed too far.
    4. Continue 'til company loses any credibility even in court.
    5. Make company go poof and found a new one.
    6. Let new company do what old company did and stop pushing JUST before overdoing it. Use notes from step 3 for reference when this is the case.
    7. Profit?

  • Wow. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Friday January 02, 2009 @11:41PM (#26308539)
    So, has the "content" industry's strategy of enforcement through oppression, FUD, and deception finally developed enough cracks to let the real light in?

    Looks like their one chance at a court win is seriously on the rocks... and they have been trying to get the ISPs to do their police work, for lack of better alternatives...

    For the most part, the ISPs won't do it. It costs too much money and helps their competition. So it looks to me like the RIAA (and by proxy, MPAA) are very rapidly losing ground in this whole battle.

    About time.

    Maybe repeal of DMCA is next? One can hope.
  • by jskline (301574) on Saturday January 03, 2009 @10:19AM (#26311363) Homepage

    Its been pretty evident that they (RIAA litigation teams) have been soiling in their own yards for some time. Unfortunately this is going to have undesired consequences to many of us that were not foreseen. Such as the bit where in Texas, you cannot work on a PC for another person without a Private Investigators license. Last I heard, they're still fighting this one. I don't want to have to carry a 4 year degree in criminal justice just so I can fix PC's for clients at some ridiculous low price just to compete with the dumb geeks at Worst Buy. There are others unintended consequences as well.

    Who's to say that the RIAA didn't decide in a corporate meeting recently that; "Hay team, it looks like we've gotten as much as we're going to get out of this cash cow. All that we've made thus far has been safely squirreled away in Swiss accounts now so I think it is about time we consider disbanding starting by dropping Media Sentry. We don't want to pay those buffoons any more of our money anyway."

  • Given that we're in principle talking about illegal activity and the beneficial use of such activity, is there any chance of followup? Or will both MediaSentry and the RIAA get away with it again?

  • In a regrettably "subscribers-only" story, the Wall Street Journal online edition notes that they have received confirmation of the RIAA's having dropped MediaSentry.

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