MPAA Sues YouTVpc, Peekvid for Copyright Infringement

Two more distributors of allegedly -- if not obviously -- unlicensed content are facing civil prosecution by the Motion Picture Association of America this afternoon. YouTVpc and Peekvid are the subjects of civil suits in US District Court in Los Angeles, not only for hosting unlicensed content but linking to other sources for unlicensed content as well.

It's that second part of the claim which could be the most telling of the MPAA's current strategy: We had never seen these two sites for ourselves before today. In pulling up YouTVpc for the first time, we found links to movies and TV shows, some of which were actually being hosted on YouTube. Some of those links - including, most notably, the one marked "Spiderman 3" - were inoperative today, perhaps on account of this lawsuit.

As the MPAA's anti-piracy chief, John Malcolm, said today in a prepared statement, if you sense the Association is sending a revised signal, you're right. It's going after sites which link to the hosts of pirated material, and these two are just today's examples.

"The sole purpose of these sites is to disseminate content that has been illegally reproduced and distributed," Malcolm said. "They are a one-stop shop for copyright infringement. These lawsuits should serve as a warning to other aspiring movie theft 'entrepreneurs' that they are not above the law and will face serious consequences for their activities."

Up front, YouTVpc provides links to a limited number of features, which are shown in streams (like YouTube) though not downloads. On its surface, this might not seem like illegal distribution as Malcolm alleged, though it could be interpreted as illegal reproduction. However, YouTVpc did contain a link marked "Movie Downloads," which led us to a second site with an altogether different title. This site promises downloads of movies and TV shows, not streams, if only you'll take the time to register...and to pay a fee, and to install some software.

The FAQ for this second site features the question, "What movies do you have?" It answers itself with the following: "The network has almost every movie in the world. Stay connected with our millions of satisfied users and find any movie you're looking for!"

Today's MPAA statement goes on to allege that both sites "rely on advertisers to maintain their illegal websites and they profit handsomely from a seemingly endless stream of third-party advertising pitches."

We didn't see that in our tests, though perhaps the reason was because we declined to install any number of controls or cookies, especially those sent to us by Peekvid. Though the MPAA claims Peekvid and YouTVpc operate servers located in the US, we found that many of the (non-YouTube) streams and the sources of the cookies and controls we blocked were located elsewhere, including Mexico.

The existence of these sites may have only caught the attention of the MPAA just last April, as a result of a Wall Street Journal investigation into so-called "guerilla" movie sites, in which Malcolm was called upon for comment. In that article, the proprietors of YouTVpc bragged about their methodology.

While the WSJ reporter compared them to guerilla warriors, they compared themselves to weeds. Said one YouTVpc proprietor, "If one host gets shut down, there are three others that are going to pop up."

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