FBI does Big Content's dirty work

The Untouchables took time out from fighting organised crime to act as Big Content’s P2P enforcer this week.

According to court records that Wired has accessed, the FBI raid on Wes DeSoto has all the fingerprints of Big Content’s handywork.

The Feds believe that DeSoto was a member of TiMPE, which has managed to pirate movies before their release dates. DeSoto was seen sharing copies of the The King’s Speech and Black Swan on The Pirate Bay in January.

The FBI searched DeSoto’s home for “records, documents, programs, applications or materials relating to ‘TiMPE’ and ‘thepiratebay.org.’”

While DeSoto admits he has shared one or two files in his time, he told Wired he has no connection with any group. He said he was a nobody in the online file sharing world and the investigation is excessive and a waste of tax dollars.

What has made DeSoto a number one suspect is that he is a member of the Screen Actor’s Guild.

The SAG sends members codes so they can screen films before their release dates. Each copy of these films is watermarked and someone under the handle mf34inc posted in the Pirate Bay comments that “SAG now sends out iTunes download codes for screens…I’m a SAG member and I thought I’d share these.”

Mf34inc began sharing Rabbit Hole and the IP address was traced, probably by the movie industry, to DeSoto. The story should send alarm bells ringing for any copper. While crims are not often the brightest of bulbs, going online, effectively giving investigators enough clues to identify you and then posting strikes us as a little strange.

DeSoto would have known that the each of the movies was watermarked with a code that would have linked them to him.

Strangely that watermark is not mentioned in the evidence, only that DeSoto’s IP address was used to push the files out.

According to the affidavit, Larry Hahn, the Motion Picture Association of America director of content protection, “advised” the FBI that five “feature motion pictures” were uploaded to the Pirate Bay days before.

Each of the movies had been released for theatrical viewing in the previous three months, before having been uploaded to thepiratebay.org, but none of the movies had been sold or distributed publicly in the DVD or video-streaming formats.

DeSoto could get three years jail for this offence because it was brought about by the FBI rather than Big Content. All it had to do was pay its investigators to find the IP address.

Even if DeSoto shared four files, it hardly makes him involved in a criminal operation to justify the attention of the Untouchables.

We would have thought it was the sort of thing that that could have been dealt with in a civil court, rather than wasting heaps of taxpayer cash.