MPAA Sues Usenet, Torrent Search Sites

The Motion Picture Association of America has found a new target in its war against piracy: search engines providing links to copyrighted material. Although they distribute no files themselves, such sites are a critical piece of the infrastructure that enables movie piracy, the MPAA says.

Lawsuits were filed Thursday against: BinNews.com, Torrentspy.com, IsoHunt, BTHub.com, TorrentBox.com, NiteShadow.com, Ed2k-It.com, NZB-Zone.com, and DVDRs.net. The suits mark the first time the MPAA has gone after Usenet related services, which have largely been spared in the crackdown on illicit file sharing.

Unlike P2P networks, which facilitate content swapping between users, Usenet operators host the content directly on their servers. However, because they do not regulate what files get uploaded, such companies have avoided legal attacks through protections offered to Internet service providers.

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The Digital Millennium Copyright Act affords similar protection to search engine operators, as long as they are not aware of infringing content and remove the links when notified. The MPAA signed an agreement with BitTorrent.com last November in which the search site agreed to take down links to feature films.

However, the sites sued Thursday benefit financially from such links and the MPAA says it sees no distinction between those providing the content and those linking to it.

"Website operators who abuse technology to facilitate infringements of copyrighted works by millions of people are not anonymous – they can and will be stopped," said John Malcolm, Director of Worldwide Anti-Piracy Operations for the MPAA. "Disabling these powerful networks of illegal file distribution is a significant step in stemming the tide of piracy on the Internet."

The lawsuits come just days after the MPAA successfully shut down a major server known as Razorback2 used in the eDonkey2000 network. Razorback2 was accessed by millions of P2P users on the network and served as an index of content shared by users, similar to the search Web sites.

The MPAA claims the movie industry lost $1.9 billion in 2005 due to Internet piracy. Nonetheless, the organization boasts that it is making progress, and has shut down 75 BitTorrent and eDonkey sites in the last year alone.

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