A company created to protect the interests of the movie industry has proven it can't protect itself from intrusion.

MediaDefender, which was founded by ARTISTDirect in 2000 to fight peer-to-peer piracy and claims "every major record label and movie studio" as its clients, suffered a security breach with the apparent theft of thousands internal emails over the weekend.

The theft and subsequent publishing of the emails on BitTorrent - by a group called MediaDefender-Defenders - indicated that MediaDefender had created a website designed to entrap illegal uploaders.

According to the emails, MediaDefender put up that so-called "honeypot" website, www.MiiVii.com, to permit people to upload and download copyrighted movies, television shows and music.

When visitors installed software associated with the site, the software could also surreptitiously track their activity and report to MediaDefender.

Some reports said that the company also intended to co-opt MiiVii users' computers and turn them into anti-piracy machines in an effort to cut off downloads of copyrighted content. These would distribute files that appeared to contain copyrighted material but in fact were "empty."

MediaDefender-Defenders claimed responsibility for the breach, noting, "By releasing these emails we hope to secure the privacy and personal integrity of all peer-to-peer users."

The release of the MediaDefender emails set off a flurry of blog comments, including the posting of the emails to a variety of widely visited sites. The email contents included personal data, such as employee home phone numbers and Social Security numbers, along with private emails.