The leaked memo and the MPAA's TV-Shack strategy

Summary:Leaked documents from the MPAA have shown how movie insiders are briefed to respond to questions concerning the landmark case of Richard O'Dwyer.

Leaked documents from the MPAA have shown how movie insiders are briefed to respond to questions concerning the landmark case of Richard O'Dwyer, who is being extradited to the U.S. -- but not without a fight.

UK student O'Dwyer is known for once running TV-Shack, an aggregator website that linked to third-party sites where media including television shows and films were available for streaming. Although no copyrighted material was hosted on the website, American authorities say that as it indexed links to pirated media and gained revenue by doing so, it was eligible for taking down.

The servers that hosted the site were based in Sweden, but the original .com domain name is under the jurisdiction of the U.S., and therefore could be seized. After this domain name was taken, O'Dwyer set up a .cc name, but as this was operated by U.S. company Versign, it too was eventually handed over to the authorities.

mpaa piracy copyright infringement odwyer extradition

Following arrest, the student could face up to five years in a U.S. prison if he is convicted overseas. After UK Home Secretary Theresa May approved the extradition request in May, O'Dwyer has appealed -- but with little success.

Naturally, such a case has drawn the eyes of the media and public figures including Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales. In response to this, a "memo" from the MPAA offers guidelines on how members of the movie industry can cope with the press.

TorrentFreak obtained the memo, which outlines Wales as "presumptuous" for launching a petition to stop the extradition, which has so far gained almost 250,000 signatures. The Wikipedia founder considers the student a victim of the MPAA's campaign to censor and control what happens online.

The memo offers "basic talking points" and standard questions & answers for "reporter briefing". TV-Shack is outlined as a pirate website where the founder made a tidy profit through aggregating links for content.

But how about comparing it to a search engine like Google, where thousands of dubious links can be found quickly? "TV-Shack had a simple purpose, and it wasn't search," the memo says. "It was to provide pirated content almost exclusively to viewers."

Considering itself one of the main protectors of "freedom of speech and expression," the Motion Picture Association of America believes that connecting Internet freedom of speech and O'Dwyers' case is nonsensical. Motion picture only exists because of freedom of speech and expression, and these are the industry's "time honored core values". In comparison, the student's plight only concerns "a man profiting from theft".

Seized in 2010, the memo continues to explain how TV-Shack operated and the role O'Dwyer played. More than a "middleman", the MPAA view the student as a man who knowingly set up a site for copyright infringement purposes -- mentioning that in the site's FAQ section, it said, "please keep in mind that you’re watching videos for free as opposed to spending over 20 dollars at the movie theater or purchasing a show." The memo also says:

"He advertised his site as a place to find movies that were still in theatres and in-season tv shows. He profited heavily from this activity. To call him a 'middleman' suggests a lack of involvement in the illegal activity, which is simply not the case."

Finally, in response to the question of whether he is just a college student who likes computers, the reply is outlined:

"Being 24, posing for newspaper photo shoots in a cartoon sweatshirt, and having your mother and Jimmy Wales speak for you, does not mean you are incapable for breaking the law."

Attempting to gain access to the domain now leads to an IP theft seizure banner, and then leads to a YouTube video dedicated to anti-piracy. The U.S. government agency claims that TV-Shack generated more than $230,000 (£147,000) in advertising revenue.

Read the full memo.

Topics: Tech Industry

About

Charlie Osborne, a medical anthropologist who studied at the University of Kent, UK, is a journalist, freelance photographer and former teacher. She has spent years travelling and working across Europe and the Middle East as a teacher, and has been involved in the running of businesses ranging from media and events to B2B sales. Charli... Full Bio

zdnet_core.socialButton.googleLabel Contact Disclosure

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Related Stories

The best of ZDNet, delivered

You have been successfully signed up. To sign up for more newsletters or to manage your account, visit the Newsletter Subscription Center.
Subscription failed.