Lawsuit: Fired data center worker wiped out TV show

Wisconsin ISP CyberLynk's backup didn't work, so 14 episodes of "Zodiac Island" were lost

The creators of "Zodiac Island" say they lost an entire season of their syndicated children's television show after a former employee at their Internet service provider wiped out more than 300GB of video files.

WeR1 World Network, the show's creator, is suing the ISP, CyberLynk of Franklin, Wisconsin, and its former employee, Michael Jewson, for damages, saying CyberLynk should have done a better job of protecting its data.

The problems started in February 2009 when CyberLynk terminated Jewson's employment for an undisclosed reason. One month later, on March 26, Jewson allegedly logged back into his former employer's systems and went on a data-wiping rampage.

The lost data included an entire season of "Zodiac Island" -- 6,480 files -- that was stored on a CyberLynk FTP server. The show's producers had been using the server for nearly a year as a drop box where contributors from the U.S., Manila, Beijing and Hong Kong could collaborate on episodes.

CyberLynk was supposed to have backed up the data, but CEO Adam Hobach told WeR1 that his company's backup procedure "had failed and/or was not properly instituted," WeR1 said in a lawsuit filed last week in U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii.

"This was an accumulation of two years of work that included animation artwork and live action video production, with contributions from several hundred people and over three dozen companies in the United States and Asia," WeR1 said in the filing.

The company is "seeking restoration and restitution for all damages and destruction of our proprietary materials," WeR1 CEO Ingrid Wang said Thursday in an e-mail message.

"Zodiac Island" is broadcast on about 100 U.S. TV stations and chronicles the adventures of animated characters and their real-life friends as they learn about "teamwork, sharing and how to be part of a loving community," according to a trailer.

About 65GB of the data was permanently lost, leaving the production company with only snippets of its 14-episode season. "Because this destroyed data includes fragments from each of the 14 episodes, it is now impossible to re-assemble any of the episodes in its entirety," WeR1 said.

Last month, Jewson agreed to pay WeR1 US$360,000 in damages, but the company doesn't believe he will be able to pay the full amount. The former CyberLynk employee has signed a plea agreement in his criminal case, but that has yet to be formally accepted by the court, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin. If it is accepted, Jewson could face a maximum five-year sentence.

Neither Jewson nor CyberLynk could immediately be reached for comment.

News of the lawsuit was first reported Thursday by Courthouse News Service.

Robert McMillan covers computer security and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Robert on Twitter at @bobmcmillan. Robert's e-mail address is robert_mcmillan@idg.com

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