p2pnet.net News Feature:- The only reason the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) and RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) are getting away with victimizing file sharers in their pursuit of profit is because the people they’re terroriziing are ordinary men, women and children who don’t have a hope in hell of standing up to the multi-billion-dollar entertainment industry conglomerates.
However, p2pnet writer catflap was able to talk to one of the cartels’ more recent victims – Alexander Hanff who may well be the man to go down in the history books as the first person to take on the MPAA and RIAA thugs in an open court.
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Pirate. Outlaw. Criminal. These words are commonly used by the illegal New World Order-controlled mainstream media and the monopolies of the MPAA and RIAA to describe filesharers, BitTorrent tracker owners, and owners of filesharing websites with quicklinks for other filesharing networks.
We know they`re wrong. Dead wrong.
Alexander Hanff isn’t the stereotypical, Hollywood-fabricated, macho, gung-ho Bruce Willis action man. He`s better than that. Much better. He`s the real thing. A man of principle and conviction who`s faced adversity in his life head-on with bravery and integrity, and overcome unimaginable obstacles with dignity, against all odds.
He’s a man of action with an honest sensitivity seldom written about. And now he`s standing against the MPAA`s unprecedented and unjustified attacks on honest, hardworking people who are breaking no laws.
On March 15, 2005 The Register ran an article on the then newest victim of the illegal and immoral MPAA-sanctioned terrorist attacks Alexander Hanff, a UK citizen and owner of BitTorrent tracker and vibrant filesharing community DVDR-Core. The MPAA claims he was `helping people download copyrighted films via P2P technology.
The website`s servers were at one time located in the USA. The illegal MPAA movie cartel claims Hanff is subject to the jurisdiction of the United States federal court by virtue of engaging in BitTorrent activities through a US Internet Service Provider, among other reasons”.
The fact he`s an English citizen doesn`t seem to bother them.
To fight these allegations, he`s retained lawyer David Harris, an expert on intellectual property and IT issues, who`s with the law firm UKITLaw.com. Harris is also representing Kevin Reid, another MPAA victim.
I recently spoke to Alex regarding his fight, P2P technology, and his life experiences which have brought him to this point. Below is our uncensored discussion.
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Alex, thank you very much for taking time out from your hectic life.
Catflap: Firstly, in your opinion, is file sharing copyright material really illegal? I’ve never heard of a court case or specific law regarding that. Would you say (your personal opinion) that if it`s being done, then it isn’t illegal if money or services aren`t being exchanged; and, that falls under the category of “Fair Use” laws which are on the books in many countries?
Hanff: I do believe in fair use. I also believe that in many countries it’s actually not illegal it`s just that the MPAA grossly misinterpret copyright law to try and make it look illegal, as well as casting ludicrous aspersions that it’s damaging their industry when they have no proof whatsoever that the individuals who download the material would never have purchased it from a retailer. This is very important, as it completely obliterates any claim for damages, since in reality they have lost no sales. Add to this that many articles/polls and studies are appearing to show conclusively that p2p only increases the profits of the companies screaming infringement, as people who become serious about the hobby end up spending more money on original material they have “tried” in the first place.
Catflap: Are films and audio different than TV programs, in that tv programs are free to all who have terrestrial/cable/satellite access to them, and people have been allowed to record and copy them for decades, whereas the ability to copy DVDs and CDs is relatively recent?
Hanff: Any audio that is played on the radio or on tv should be classed as public domain for personal use – or are Sony going to sue themselves for developing technology that allows people to record both music and television programs that they don’t own the copyright for? The same goes for TV. My partner currently owns over $4,000.00 worth of original DVDs, as well as paying an $80 monthly subscription to cable tv. If she misses a show on a subscription service, why should she not be permitted to download it? She has already paid her “royalty” fee by paying subscriptions to the cable company.
Catflap: Are you using the “Betamax defense” or a “Google” search engine-like defense? Basically, if you can tell us, what is your defense argument?
Hanff: In the current case raised, our defense is simple: they have no jurisdiction and if they think they are going to try and tell me what to do when they have zero authority over me whatsoever, they can kiss my ass. We have elected officials to tell us what to do, so why would I pay attention to a fat cat corporation in a different country?
Catflap: I understand that your tracker’s servers were located in the USA. Why did you decide to have them hosted there in the homeland of the MPAA and RIAA, when there are other locations available?
Hanff: Firstly we currently have no tracker. The site was based on a US server for approx 5-6 weeks way back in October last year. The entire site was shut down in December, at which point it was located in the Netherlands.
Catflap: You say you won’t settle out of court or use any of the money from the defense fund towards a settlement. Obviously, the LokiTorrent sellout has made many filesharers suspicious of tracker owners, and made the MPAA and RIAA more courageous. And of course, it’s put you in this terrible position.
Catflap: I noticed you have an online merchandise shop to help raise funds for your legal expenses. Besides that and the ads, are these the only forms of “donations”?
Hanff: We’re not actively seeking donations (which doesn’t mean we won’t accept them). In light of the Loki sellout, we decided the most effective way to try and raise funds would be through banner ads and merchandise. That way the people who wish to help will actually get something back for their money. If anyone wishes to donate they can contact either myself or my lawyer for the details, but I must stress, I’m not pushing the donations. I completely understand why people would resent it and I sincerely sympathise with the people who got ripped off with Loki. At least by using banners linking to products and services they are interested in and merchandise they can use, they are getting something for their buck.
IHanff: I‘ve no control over the independent donation account setup by my lawyer so I couldn’t say how much has been donated so far.
Catflap: You must surely realise (since the Loki sellout and secrecy surrounding it) that if your legal expenses are not publicly shown, whether or not you settle out of court people will want – demand – to know how much money you collected and where the money went. Will you provide the relevant financial details on your website so that anyone can see it?
Hanff: I’ll discuss that with my lawyer when it’s appropriate. I’m not trying to be secretive and I’m sure it will not be a problem. My lawyer is working pro-bono, so the donations will go towards paying any extra costs (such as filing documents to the court and other expenses related directly to the case).
Catflap: Do you have any idea when your case might reach a court – if at all? Either in the UK or the USA?
Hanff: I’ve no idea.
Catflap: Would the lawyers consider some kind of “class action” type of suit to defend other UK-based trackers, filesharers, etc. in order to offset the cost for you?
Hanff: If either myself or Kevin win the case should it come to the UK, I expect we will certainly discuss a class counter-suit. I’m also looking into bringing criminal charges against the MPAA for “Money by Menace” and several other criminal offenses in the international arena, the US arena and the UK arena.
I wish the best of luck to Kevin in his case and will do anything I can to help support him. I hope others do the same.
Catflap: If you go to court and you lose, you will probably be faced with hefty fines and possible restrictions on your personal/professional internet usage. Is there a possibility of you going to prison? Will you appeal any decision against you? Will you move your servers to a different location?
Hanff: There’s no chance of going to prison. I’m not a criminal, nor have I committed a criminal offense. In fact, in the UK I’ve not even committed a civil offence, and it’s very questionable as to whether I’ve in the US either (remember, no judge has ever made a ruling on this issue and thus until they do, we have done absolutely nothing wrong). They cannot restrict my internet usage in any way whatsoever. If any judge tries to restrict my online activity, I’ll ignore them. I’m a human being, not a pet – people don’t tell me what I can and can’t do with my own time, and anyone who tries will be faced with complete disregard.
Catflap: Are you going to support the boycott organized by p2punite, April 24-30?
Hanff: I don’t see a boycott as a short-lived thing. I would like people to boycott Hollywood completely for an ongoing period until such time as they (MPAA/RIAA) start to respect public opinion. I’m not clued up on the p2punite boycott, but I’ll look into it. I’ve to read so much stuff everyday I’m afraid I’ll have to add it to the to do list.
Catflap: What facts or info is incorrect or unfairly reported or represented in the Register article, or elsewhere, that you would like to be cleared up?
Hanff: Well, the Register article was actually quite good, just some people chose to misinterpret it. I’ve already made clear on several forums (including our own) that I was responsible for the running of the forums and the chat room, but never had anything to do with the tracker configuration/setup or general technical administration. Everyone who knows me, knows I’m a community man. That is where my activity in DVDR-Core was concentrated.
Catflap: Alex, the mainstream media portrays filesharers and BitTorrent tracker owners as dangerous, hardened criminals. We know this isn’t true. They don`t treat you like human beings. And once they’ve reported that, they move on to other things and never take the opportunity to interview the real victims like yourself and Kevin Reid.
Catflap: But to us, you`re not just a name on a website or lawsuit. So tell us something about yourself.
Hanff: I grew up in probably the worst of circumstances. My mother and father separated shortly after I was born, and remarried. The stepfather was a wife and child beater and a violent criminal as well as a sex offender. I’ve two sisters, both of whom were sexually abused, and I was severely beaten throughout my childhood. After my mother separated from our first stepfather, we had to move from pillar to post due to continued violent attacks. At one point my younger sister was even kidnapped by my stepfather.
When I was 3 years old my mother was almost killed in a car accident and spent several months in a coma, and a total of 2 years in hospital having very serious brain surgery. When she recovered and our stepfather had spent all her compensation money, she left him and life went from bad to worse. Our pets were brutally killed, our house was regularly broken into, and we lived in sheer terror.
My mother remarried again eventually, and when I was 12 I was shipped off to a government boarding school for gifted children, where I stayed until I was 17. The events that took place during that 5 year period are both too numerous and too difficult for me to discuss, but if my life was hard before I went to boarding school, it pales almost in comparison to my life from 12-20.
My entire family was ripped apart by child abuse and somehow they forgot about me. Being away at boarding school I lost everyone I ever loved, my entire family. I went from being in boarding school for 36 weeks of the year to having to fend for myself in the real world, with no job, no money and no home. Needless to say, times were hard, but I struggled on. I started to work with children and adults alike who had been sexually and physically abused, in an attempt I suppose, to understand my own life. That grew and I eventually started a non-profit organization online in the early 90`s, providing advice and information for people who had been abused all over the world. Further to this, I started to work with agencies around the world, tracking down paedophile rings and child pornography traffickers online. In 1997 I wrote an academic paper as part of a college course I was doing, based on the issues of paedophilia on the internet, outlining how serious a threat this was. I’ve provided evidence for several successful prosecutions (although I hope you will appreciate I cannot disclose which ones) around the world.
However, I had a serious blow to my emotional stability in 1999 when I discovered my father had died the previous year and quit my job as a teacher at the local university and moved to the US. At this point I ceased my work in the area of child abuse as I was not emotionally strong enough to look after myself, let alone other people. After six months in the US I returned to England.
I’ve been involved in many projects over the years, from setting up internet cafes to spearheading campaigns for social reform. In one instance in 1999 I was working on a campaign to stop companies in my city from exploiting students by paying illegal wages and working them 16 hours a day when they should have been studying. The result of this was corrective surgery on my face after being brutally assaulted by a local business owner who wanted to continue exploiting students and didn’t like my campaign.
For the past 12 years I’ve worked in the technology field (specifically internet related) and have done everything from system testing a multi-billion pound welfare system for the government, to building hundreds of PCs, web design, programming, teaching, research, course development, technical support, and the list really is endless. I’ve constantly been screwed over by companies who wished to use my experience but when payday arrived, the cheques either bounced or didn’t balance. To date (including interest) I’m owed around £30,000 in unpaid salary. In one instance an employment tribunal even ruled in my favour, but the company directors disappeared and I never saw a penny of the money they owed me (Cooee where are you now?).
I’ve seen things most people will never see. I’ve experienced things most people will never experience, and I’ve felt pain like many people will never feel.
The MPAA fight might seem impossible to win to some people, but there’s nothing, absolutely nothing the MPAA can do to me that can even remotely compare to the suffering I’ve both experienced and witnessed in others. They are nothing. They (the MPAA) exist purely because we let them, no other reason. The only way we can take control of our own lives is to take it back from the mechanisms that manipulate them to their advantage and profit. I’m a man of conviction.
Some people would say I’ve been a victim all my life. I don’t see it that way. I see myself as a person who has been shaped by experience. I don’t dwell on my past – I live for the future, a future that as of last week now will contain my first child, and a wonderful and understanding partner who has an equally wonderful and understanding family. Without them I would be nothing, less than nothing. Heather truly is my reason for picking myself up again and going from strength to strength.
I’m a man who hates to see people mistreated and downtrodden. I’m a man who takes pride in absolutely everything he does. I’m a man who will fight for anyone should they need it. I’m a man of intelligence and I’m a man of so much love for his fellow human beings that I can’t express it in words. DVDR-CORE was setup because I saw a floundering community who had been discarded by their original server owner and who wanted to continue in a safe and enjoyable environment. I was known on the forums for being the one who didn’t take any shit. I told it how it was. If someone was causing problems for others, I would deal with them and no-one got in my way. I never made any money from DVDR-Core and I never downloaded anything from our tracker. In fact, I lost substantial amounts of money and dedicated around 80-100 hours a week into making sure people felt safe in our community.
The MPAA case is nothing less than an insult to everything I’ve ever done and everyone I’ve ever helped, and it’s completely unfounded. I’ll fight this case to the bitter end and then when it’s over, whether I win or lose, I’ll continue to live my life in the same fashion as before, trying to help people.
My father said to me once “it’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice.” That is my philosophy and I’ll crush anyone who tries to stand in my way whilst trying to achieve it. The MPAA it off more than they could chew with me and they will regret it in the long run.
Catflap: Thank you very much for all of your time, Alex. We’re certainly behind you 100%. I know p2pnet and the rest of the filesharing community will be watching the case very closely.
And now a special message from me catflap – to the MPAA:
Pirate? Outlaw? Criminal? Hardly.
You’ve picked the wrong man to threaten with a lawsuit, especially since you have no jurisdiction where he lives.
You monopolies, you cartels, you New World Order megalomaniacs. You’ve created the situation you’re in, and you dare to penalize and tear apart whole families and communities for the sake of a few extra dollars in your already-fat wallets?
What you’re doing, and what you’d like to achieve, is diabolical in nature and dictatorial in concept and practice. Not satisfied with having completely morally bankrupted all of Western society with your inferior products and values, you seek to financially bankrupt decent, hardworking individuals and families, many of whom are struggling to make ends meet and who rely on the internet for affordable (legal and free) information and entertainment, because they cannot and will not pay the outrageous price of a cinema ticket, a dvd, or a cd.
You blatantly disregard the laws of other countries and constantly and consistently disrespect the basic tenets of civil and human rights afforded to everyone, no matter who or where they are.
You won’t be able to contain the growing global dissatisfaction with your products and services. You’ll not be allowed to control every, and any, form of communication. Your terrorist attacks and illegal blackmailing schemes will be stopped, and one way or another, you will be made to pay for the damages you’ve inflicted on society.
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