In an exclusive interview with Wired News, gun-for-hire hacker Robert Anderson tells for the first time how the Motion Picture Association of America promised him money and power if he provided confidential information on TorrentSpy, a popular BitTorrent search site.
According to Anderson, the MPAA told him: “We would need somebody like you. We would give you a nice paying job, a house, a car, anything you needed…. if you save Hollywood for us you can become rich and powerful.”
In 2005, the MPAA paid Anderson $15,000 for inside information about TorrentSpy — information at the heart of a copyright-infringement lawsuit brought by the MPAA against TorrentSpy of Los Angeles. The material is also the subject of a wiretapping countersuit against the MPAA brought by TorrentSpy’s founder, Justin Bunnell, who alleges the information was obtained illegally.
The MPAA does not dispute it paid Anderson for the sensitive information, but insists that it had no idea that Anderson stole the data. “The MPAA obtains information from third parties only if it believes the evidence has been collected legally,” says MPAA spokeswoman Elizabeth Kaltman.
But according to documents filed in support of TorrentSpy’s wiretapping countersuit: “Dean Garfield expressly told the informant (Anderson), on behalf of the MPAA, regarding the information that he requested, ‘We don’t care how you get it.'”
It continues: “(T)he MPAA knew, or had reason to know, that such information was obtained from plaintiffs unlawfully and without authorization.”
But once Anderson turned over the data and cashed the MPAA’s check, he quickly realized that Garfield had no further use for him. “He lost interest in me,” he says. Anderson felt abandoned: During negotiations with Garfield, the hacker had become convinced he was starting a long-term, lucrative relationship with the motion picture industry. “He was stringing me along personally.”
Hollywood’s cold shoulder put Anderson’s allegiance back up for grabs, and about a year later he came clean with TorrentSpy’s Bunnell in an online chat. “‘I sold you out to the MPAA,'” Anderson says he told Bunnell. “I felt guilty (for) what happened and I kinda also thought at that point the MPAA wasn’t going to do anything.”
“He was kinda blown away,” recalls Anderson.