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Feds Sting Movie Pirates

Wednesday, September 1, 2004; 9:08 AM

It was the night the lights went out in Texas, at least for Michael Chicoine. The San Antonio man was one of several people whose homes were raided by FBI agents last week as part of a sting to crack down on the illegal sharing of movies on the Internet. The Justice Department said that 7,000 members of the so-called Underground Network traded movies, software programs, games and music on five hub servers. The raids, which produced no arrests, also took place in Wisconsin and New York, but Chicoine was the only target named.

The Washington Post reported that an undercover agent got on the service and downloaded a studio screener of the movie "Cold Mountain" before it was out in theaters or on video. The Post noted that the agent also downloaded approximately 84 movies, 40 software programs, 13 games and 178 "sound recordings" from the five sites.

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What makes this action interesting is that it's the first time that the Justice Department has gotten in on the entertainment industry's attempts to crack down on the thriving trade of pirated music, movies and software on the Internet. Earlier this month, 40 state attorneys general drafted a letter to several popular peer-to-peer file-sharing networks that warned them to stop illegal trading activity.

How to Make Threats and Intimidate People

What is it about posting the names, home addresses, phone numbers, e-mail addresses and hotel locations of 1,600 Republican Convention delegates that makes the Secret Service so upset? That's what the American Civil Liberties Union wants to know. The ACLU is protesting the Secret Service's investigation into whether someone engaged in voter intimidation when they published the delegates' data on the nyc.indymedia.org Web site.

The ACLU is up in arms because the Secret Service has subpoenaed indymedia's Internet service provider, Calyx Internet Access, to learn who did the dirty deed. ACLU attorney Ann Beeson said that there was never a security threat. The poster, she said, was exercising a constitutionally protected right to protest by encouraging people to "taunt and mock" the delegates. Matt Toups, a Calyx system administrator, said that the feds are trying "to put the heat on people who are involved in dissent."

An Aug. 18 posting to the site, however, said that the data was there for "anti-RNC groups" to use "in whatever way they see fit." Whatever that means.

Red Spam, Blue Spam

Some politicians and lobby groups are jumping at the chance to buy a list that will give them access to 25 million registered voters' e-mail addresses. The list, the Post reported, was not put together with the e-mail address holders' consent and a lot of experts say this is nothing more than spam. Many lobby shops agree.

Advocacy Inc., the group that came up the plan, argues that registered voters have a compelling interest in the democratic process, so they are eligible to receive e-mail messages from any political organization. That must be what all those people out there will be thinking in the nanosecond it takes for their brains to fire the impulse to their index fingers that makes them hit the "delete" key.

Robert MacMillan, washingtonpost.com Tech Policy Editor


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