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EFF sides with TorrentSpy in MPAA lawsuit

Advocacy group intends to argue against judge's decision to force companies to turn over RAM information. Group fears digital phone conversations may not longer be private.

Greg Sandoval Former Staff writer
Greg Sandoval covers media and digital entertainment for CNET News. Based in New York, Sandoval is a former reporter for The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times. E-mail Greg, or follow him on Twitter at @sandoCNET.
Greg Sandoval
2 min read

As expected, the Electronic Frontier Foundation plans to file a friends-of-the-court brief in support of TorrentSpy, the search engine accused of copyright violations.

The top motion-picture studios filed a lawsuit last year against TorrentSpy and other search engines that locate torrent files. The studios allege in their suit that these companies simplify the illegal sharing of copyright content.

The magistrate judge hearing the case recently ruled that computer RAM or random-access memory, is a tangible document that can be stored and must be turned over in a lawsuit. If allowed to stand, the groundbreaking decision may mean that anyone defending themselves in a civil suit could be required to turn over information in their computer's RAM hardware. This could force companies and individuals to store vast amounts of data, say technology experts.

The judge has ordered TorrentSpy to create logs detailing users' activities on the site.

Fred von Lohmann, senior staff attorney with EFF, which advocates for the rights of Internet users, said the group has notified representatives from TorrentSpy and the motion picture studios of their intent to file an amicus brief that argues for a reversal of the judge's decision.

He added that EFF is also looking for others to join them on the brief.

"This is the first time the court has found that information found only in RAM is subject to preservation," von Lohmann said. "Companies may be obliged to begin logging and producing information about conversations that occur on digital phones, which are stored on RAM. Nobody is asked to preserve records for analog phone conversations."

Lawyers from the Motion Picture Assoc. of America argue that the law has always found RAM to be electronically stored information and that there won't be any significant impact to others besides those engaged in illegal file sharing.