Allegations of conducting unlicensed investigations continue to dog MediaSentry, the company hired by the RIAA to seek out and download music over P2P networks as part of the group's legal campaign. Mary Roy, the Assistant General Counsel of Central Michigan University, has filed a complaint with the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Growth (DLEG), accusing MediaSentry of conducting investigations without a Private Investigator license.
The complaint (PDF) was filed in mid-July and was just uncovered by attorney Ray Beckerman on his blog. In it, MediaSentry is accused of continuing its "unlicensed and illegal actions" in Michigan even after being informed by the DLEG in February 2008 that its activities could be in violation of state law.
Under Michigan state law, a private investigator is defined as an entity that investigates "the identity, habits, conduct, business, occupation,… activity,… transactions, acts,… or character of a person" or secures "evidence to be used before a court."
CMU points out in its complaint that the fruit of MediaSentry's labor is exhibits attached to RIAA complaints, and CMU lists eight Doe cases involving 99 suspected P2P users filed in Michigan federal courts between May 3, 2007 and May 28, 2008. In each of the lawsuits, the RIAA referred to MediaSentry as a "third-party investigator" that gathers evidence of copyright infringement.
"All of the above-noted sworn statements regarding the activities of MediaSentry would clearly establish that its activities fall within the scope of the investigative activities regulated by the PDLA [Private Detective License Act]," reads the complaint. "Nevertheless, MediaSentry has ignored any suggestion by the DLEG that it secure a license to continue its investigative activities within the state of Michigan."
The RIAA has consistently held that MediaSentry is not an "investigator" according to state law. All the company does, according to the RIAA, is harvest data from publicly-available sources (e.g., P2P networks). Even so, MediaSentry's corporate parent SafeNet decided to give the MediaSentry web site an "overdue" redesign this past February, removing all references to litigation and prosecution.
Since the issue of MediaSentry's status as a private investigator was first raised, the company has been given a cease-and-desist order by the Massachusetts State Police, while a handful of P2P defendants have argued that the evidence collected by the company should be barred. To our knowledge, there has yet to be a ruling on the issue of the admissibility of evidence collected by MediaSentry, but with a North Carolina judge deciding to look at MediaSentry's status as a private investigator in that state as part of a "fresh look" at the RIAA's Doe lawsuits, that may be about to change.