Movie, Record Industries Sue File-Swapping Scour

The motion picture industry has teamed up with the music business in a lawsuit that accuses multimedia search site of assisting in the "large-scale theft" of copyrighted movies and music.

The copyright-infringement lawsuit was filed in US District Court today by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), and the National Music Publishers Association (NMPA). The three organizations speak for almost all of the major movie studios and record companies.

"This is about stealing, plain and simple," Jack Valenti, MPAA president said in a statement. "Creative works are valuable property and taking them without permission is stealing, whether you download movies illegally or shoplift them from a store. Technology may make stealing easy. But it doesn't make it right."


The complaint claims that Scour's Napster-like file-exchange service - known as SX - "makes available for copying ... blockbuster motion pictures, the works of well-known recording artists and songwriters, and other copyrighted works that are being duplicated and distributed without the consent of their owners."

"Scour's Web site brazenly features a banner containing a 'Top Five' search list, identifying current hit motion picture titles and music recordings that have been requested most frequently - all (or virtually all) of which titles and recordings Scour knows, or should know, are protected under the copyright laws and not lawfully available for copying and distribution."

The complaint says that among the motion-picture titles available for sharing online are hits such as "The Perfect Storm," "The Patriot," and "Gladiator" - all currently playing in theatres and not yet available on videotape or DVD.

"At most times during the day, there are more than 20,000 users logged on to Scour's service, which makes over 1.8 million files available for downloading, most of them unauthorized and infringing copies," the complaint says.

Both the MPAA and the RIAA already have their lawyers in fighting trim. The MPAA is currently embroiled in lawsuits against individuals associates with software capable of decrypting movies on DVD disks, while the RIAA has squared off with MP3-sharing site Napster and other online music venues.

The movie and recording companies claim that Scour profits from the illegal copying of their content by selling advertising on its popular Web site.

On their primary infringement claims, the industries are seeking the maximum statutory damages allowed by law, which would be $150,000 for each work illegally copied. Exhibits filed with the lawsuit includes lists of some 26 movies claimed to have been available via Scour and about 150 song titles.

In addition, the complaint lists some 50 songs recorded prior to 1972 - by artists such as Elvis Presley and the Beatles. For those works for which there is no statutory penalty laid out in the law, the music companies are asking for damages to be determined by the court.

Officials from Scour were not yet available for comment.

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