Tech Insider

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

MPAA Goes After BitTorrent

Hollywood movie studios on Tuesday sued scores of operators of computer servers that help relay digital movie files across online file-sharing networks.

The copyright infringement suits expand on a new U.S. film industry initiative whose first targets were individual file-swappers.

The defendants this time run servers that use BitTorrent, now the program of choice for online sharers of large files.

"Today's actions are aimed at individuals who deliberately set up and operate computer servers and Web sites that, by design, allow people to infringe copyrighted motion pictures," said John Malcolm, head of the Motion Picture Association of America's antipiracy unit.

Malcolm, speaking at Washington news conference, declined to name defendants. He said the suits, filed in the United States and Britain, targeted more than 100 server operators.
"These people are parasites, leeching off the creativity of others," Malcolm added. "Their illegal conduct is brazen and blatant."

The suits target computer servers that index movies for BitTorrent users, but Malcolm said the MPAA is eyeing similar action against other servers as well.

Sites like BitTorrent steadily gained in popularity after the recording industry began cracking down last year on users of Kazaa, Morpheus, Grokster and other established file-sharing software.

The suits follow the same logic employed when the recording industry successfully sued the original Napster file-sharing network. The creators of that software used a central computer server to keep and update an index of what music files were being made available by computer users on the network.

Fred von Lohmann, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation in San Francisco, suggested Tuesday's lawsuits would backfire.

"By bringing these suits, the MPAA runs the risk of pushing the tens of millions of file sharers to more decentralized technologies that will be harder to police," von Lohmann said.

Another potential wrinkle is that many of the computer servers are offshore, outside the scope of U.S. copyright law.

Hollywood movie studios contend that the unauthorized trading of films online has the potential to threaten their industry, particularly as faster Internet access in homes makes the large movie files easier to download.

By comparison, music files are far smaller and swapped at greater volume.

Last month, the studios began suing computer users for swapping digitized films online for copyright infringement. The industry has also been a party to lawsuits against Kazaa, Morpheus and Grokster.

The industry has failed to persuade federal courts to shut down the services, and is awaiting a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Source: SFGate.com

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