Hewlett Packard Pays for Privacy . . . and Copyright?

hewlett-packard.jpgHewlett Packard has agreed to pay $14.5 million to resolve a lawsuit by the California attorney general over its phone records scandal. From the New York Times:

Hewlett-Packard said Thursday that it would pay $14.5 million to settle a lawsuit by the California attorney general over the company’s use of private detectives to obtain private phone records of board members and journalists.

The company is paying $650,000 in fines for “statutory damages,” but the bulk of the money, $13.5 million, is going to create a state-administered Privacy and Piracy Fund. The fund is to finance the investigation of consumer privacy violations and of intellectual-property theft, including the copying of movies and music.

“We wanted very much to enhance our ability to enforce our laws against property theft,” Bill Lockyer, the attorney general, said in an interview.

From the article, it sounds as though most of the money will go to helping the state help businesses police copyright. The purpose of the settled lawsuit was purportedly to protect privacy, and I am perplexed at how protecting against copyright piracy suddenly became an aspect of the settlement. I sure hope that the fund from the settlement is mostly used to protect consumer privacy, not as one more arrow in the music and movie industry’s copyright quiver.

For more about the HP scandal, see this terrific post by guest blogger Timothy Glynn.

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3 Responses

  1. Ned Ulbricht says:

    I am perplexed at how protecting against copyright piracy suddenly became an aspect of the settlement.

    There’s no reason to be perplexed.

    At the beginning of the month, it was reported:

    A tough California bill that would have prohibited companies and individuals from using deceptive “pretexting” ruses to steal private information about consumers was killed after determined lobbying by the motion picture industry, Wired News has learned.

    […]

    “The MPAA has a tremendous amount of clout and they told legislators, ‘We need to pose as someone other than who we are to stop illegal downloading,'” Goldberg said.

    See? Not perplexing at all.

  2. Ned Ulbricht says:

    Oops. Forgot to include the link in my previous comment. Sorry….

    Here’s the Dec 1, 2006, Wired News story by Ryan Singel,

    MPAA Kills Anti-Pretexting Bill”.

  3. Joe Liu says:

    How utterly bizarre. What’s next? Maybe the MPAA will start getting a piece of tobacco settlements.