Hollywood's lawsuit against the owner and former admin of the now-defunct Torrentspy.com site and his counter-suit against the MPAA now seem to become more about privacy than about piracy. Torrentspy owner Justin Bunnell sued the MPAA two years ago for conspiracy and breach of privacy, arguing that the industry association had paid a hacker to illegally obtain evidence against Bunnell.

The case was based on the testimony of a former associate of Bunnell who had stated that the MPAA paid him 15,000 dollars to hack into Bunnell's e-mail Inbox and get information about the site as well as other torrent admins. Bunnells lawsuit was dismissed last summer when a court ruled that the MPAA did not violate any wiretapping laws because it was technically not tapping any wires. The court found that Bunnell's emails were at some point stored on a server, and as such not part of a data transmission.

Sounds like nitpicking, but the EFF believes that such semantics could undermine our electronic privacy laws. The organization has now filed a friend of the court letter to support Bunnell in his recently filed appeal. The EFF's press release quotes Senior Staff Attorney Kevin Bankston with the following words:

"That court opinion -- holding that the secret and unauthorized copying and forwarding of emails while they pass through an email server is not an illegal interception of those emails -- threatens to wholly eviscerate federal privacy protections against Internet wiretapping and to authorize the government to conduct similar email surveillance without getting a wiretapping order from a judge."

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