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MPAA sues internet movie traders

 
 
Mr. Moody
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      11-18-2004
Hollywood sues suspected movie downloaders
Associated Press

LOS ANGELES - Following the lead of record companies who curtailed rampant
Internet piracy by targeting even small-time file swappers, Hollywood studios
have launched a first wave of lawsuits against people who allegedly downloaded
recent films such as Spider-Man 2 and Troy.

The seven major studios filed the lawsuits for federal copyright infringement on
Tuesday in Denver, New York City, San Francisco and St. Louis. Lawsuits may have
been filed in other cities, but the Motion Picture Association of America, which
represents the studios, declined to say how many were filed and where.

"It's not important," said John Malcolm, senior vice president and director of
worldwide anti-piracy operations for the MPAA. "It doesn't matter if it's 10
lawsuits or 500 lawsuits. The idea here is that there is no safe harbor."

Three lawsuits, obtained by The Associated Press, were filed in federal courts
in Denver and St. Louis. Two lawsuits were filed in Denver against 22
defendants, while the one in St. Louis targets 18 individuals.

The St. Louis lawsuit is brought against "John Doe" defendants, including four
people who are allegedly in possession of one pirated film each. Some of the
Internet addresses for the defendants can be traced to high-speed Internet
connections made available by Charter Communications, a cable television company
based in St. Louis.

The defendants are accused of offering the movies over peer-to-peer file-sharing
programs.

Like similar lawsuits filed by the record industry against downloaders of music
files, the studios say they will be able to identify the individual defendants
later.

Each of the lawsuits lists only a handful of films allegedly offered for
downloading online, including Troy, from Warner Bros., Spider-Man 2, from
Columbia Pictures and Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen, from The Walt Disney
Co.

The lawsuits seek injunctions against the defendants. Copyright law also
provides for penalties of up to $30,000 for each motion picture traded over the
Internet, and up to $150,000 if such infringement is shown to be willful.

Malcolm said more lawsuits would be filed in additional cities if the current
legal action does not stem illegal downloading.

The MPAA is running the risk of being seen as too heavy-handed, especially by
suing people who have downloaded a single movie, said Wendy Seltzer, a staff
attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

"We don't think for any industry that suing its fans is the best approach to new
technologies," Seltzer said.

As part of its larger effort to combat piracy, the MPAA also said it would step
up its educational campaign and offer a free computer program that sniffs out
movie and music files on a user's computer as well as any installed file-sharing
programs.

The MPAA said the program is expected to be available for download within a
week. It has licensed rights to the program, which was first developed in
Denmark.

Information detected by the file-detection program would not be shared with it
or any other body, the MPAA said, but could be used to remove any "infringing
movies or music files" and remove file- sharing programs.

The trade group said the program would be available for the Windows computer
operating system on a special Web site established to educate consumers about
copyrights.

The program could be a useful tool for parents, especially if they discover from
a lawsuit that their child has been downloading pirated movies from the Web,
Seltzer said.

The trade group said it would also join with the Video Software Dealers
Association to place educational materials in more than 10,000 video stores
nationwide. The materials will include anti-piracy ads that are also playing in
theaters.

With increasing success, entertainment companies are taking matters into their
own hands to fight back against Internet pirates.

The recording industry has successfully seeded hundreds of thousands of
degraded, counterfeit copies of music files across popular file-sharing networks
to frustrate computer users: These songs, for example, play for a few seconds
normally then loop the same lyrics or play static.


 
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