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Cameramaker Red claims espionage

Suit says rival cameramaker Arri benefitted from hacking

In a saga worthy of a Hollywood thriller, allegations of email hacking and industrial espionage have surfaced in the camera industry in a lawsuit filed by digital camera maker Red against rival Arri.

In the suit filed Dec. 21 in federal court in Orange County, Calif., Red accuses Arri of stealing technical details and development plans for Red cameras, giving Arri an unfair advantage.

Much of Red’s complaint rests on facts revealed in an August plea deal between federal prosecutors and former Arri executive Michael Bravin, who is also a defendant in the suit. Bravin pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of email hacking, admitting as part of the deal that he accessed the email account of Band Pro chief executive Amnon Band.

Bravin, who according to his LinkedIn profile worked for Band Pro for more than 16 years, resigned as Band Pro’s chief technology officer to become Arri’s VP of market development for digital camera products in January 2010.

From around December 2009 through June 2010, Bravin had access to Amnon Band’s email account, as Bravin has admitted. Under his plea deal, he was to serve two months in jail and pay $20,000 in restitution to Band Pro as well as legal costs. Bravin now lists himself on LinkedIn as principal at the Digital Picture Co.

In its complaint, Red asserts that during the time Bravin was hacking Band’s email account, Band Pro and Red were discussing a possible joint venture. Red says Band’s emails contained detailed descriptions of the technology used in Red’s cameras and Red’s plans for introducing new models and features.

Red alleges that Bravin passed that information to Arri, giving Arri an unfair competitive advantage, especially with respect to the launch and marketing of the Arri Alexa camera. The Alexa was released in 2010 and is seen as a direct competitor to Red’s Epic.

Red’s complaint also charges that Arri has engaged in false advertising, and it seeks a permanent injunction to stop any false ads from running.

Red is asking to be awarded any Arri profits that resulted from Bravin’s actions and unspecified punitive damages.

Reps for Red, Arri and Band Pro did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Red’s Epic and Arri’s Alexa have each won devotees. Peter Jackson is using the Red Epic to shoot “The Hobbit.” The Alexa was used to shoot “New Year’s Eve” and “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.”

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