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Probe Uncovers Alleged Pirate at Fox Cable Division

18 Mar, 2004 By: Erik Gruenwedel

An investigation into the illegal dissemination of Fox Entertainment employee information on an internal e-mail network has uncovered an alleged piracy ring that originated among members of the IT department at Fox Cable.

The discovery last month prompted a federal judge in Los Angeles to issue the U.S. Secret Service a search warrant of the home of Lisa Yamamoto, a Fox IT employee authorities allege was part of a group that engaged in the illegal duplication and reproduction of copyrighted material over the Internet.

Authorities confiscated material found on Yamamoto's home computer server that allegedly included 10 unauthorized copies of recent and not-yet-released films from several studios.

A Fox spokesperson, who stressed that Yamamoto was an employee at Fox Cable, not 20th Century Fox, released a statement reiterating the company's zero tolerance for piracy.

“We are outraged that individuals within our own company not only engaged in this behavior, but also used our technology to do so,” the statement read. “We turned the matter over to federal authorities immediately and continue to actively support their efforts to bring all those involved to justice. We have already terminated employees involved and intend to see that anyone implicated in this matter is prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

Despite Fox's resolve to quell piracy, regardless of its origin, Jason Schultz, staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco-based civil liberties organization, said the revelation underscores an AT&T Labs' study released last September that claimed 77 percent of all pirated movies found on the Internet originated from sources within the studios.

“This is just another example of a Hollywood insider getting caught with their hand in the cookie jar,” Schultz said. “As long as that keeps happening, there's really no way of stopping [piracy]. As long as Hollywood continues to leak its own material, it's going to have a hard time defending antipiracy laws.”

He said the leak shows that legislative approaches and uses of technology that lock down content can easily be circumvented by insiders because they have access to the raw material.

“They can try and pass all the laws they want and impose all the technical constraints on consumers, but it is not going to affect this problem, which is really [Hollywood's] biggest problem — over 75 percent of the problem,” Schultz said.

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