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The Patriots did NOT tape other teams practices. That was a base-less allegation by an ex-low level office employee who did video work for the team.

What the Patriots were fined for was taping the other teams' coaches hand signals during the game, from the sidelines. NFL regulations are in place stating where a team can video tape the game from. The sideline is one of the restricted areas. There was a memo sent out from the league office prior to the beginning of the 2007 restating the already in effect rule of not taping from the sideline and using that info during the game.
Patriots head coach Belichick later said that he "misinterpreted" the memo to mean that you couldn't use that footage during the SAME game,as in look at the video at halftime and see what those signals meant, then use it to your advantage in the second half. I don't buy that explaination. I think he was trying to get every advantage he could eventhough he admitted that it didn't make a huge difference in them winning or losing a game.

"Liberty is to the collective body, what health is to every individual body. Without health no pleasure can be tasted by man; without liberty, no happiness can be enjoyed by society."

— Henry St. John