Chinese P2P service with Google ties comes under fire from MPA

The Motion Picture Association (MPA) -- the international representative of the movie industry -- has filed a civil suit against Shenzhen Xunlei Networking Technology, which operates a a peer-to-peer file sharing service based in China called Xunlei that's part-owned by Google.

The MPA, comprised of six different movie studios based in the United States, accused Xunlei of copyright infringement, and is seeking $975,000 in damage reimbursement and legal fees. Further, the MPA wants an Xunlei to pledge to stop offering a method for alleged copyright infringement in the future.

The organization reportedly sent 78 notices of infringement to Xunlei officials for more than five weeks prior to its having launched a legal offensive.

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Xunlei's Thunder5 and WebThunder are popular programs used heavily by mainland Chinese Internet file sharers. Although physical piracy has also been a serious problem in China, the growing number of wired Chinese users has fueled these programs' popularity.

"P2P piracy is a huge problem in China, which if left unattended, will threaten the continue development of legitimate online services supported by copyright owners," MPA Deputy Regional Director and Regional Legal Counsel Frank Rittman stated last week.

Google and Xunlei have thus far remained silent on the issue, though Monday was a holiday in the US.

Google purchased a stake in the company in 2007, but did not disclose how much of the company it owns; unconfirmed reports indicate a 4% stake worth up to $5 million.

In late 2005, the Bush administration put China on a "priority watch list" in an attempt to prompt China to take a stand against piracy and other copyright infringement taking place in the country. Then in 2007, the US filed two complaints against China before the World Trade Organization in 2007.

Beijing has taken a stronger stance against piracy in 2007, with harsher penalties for copyright infringement, though thus far, enforcement has been unable to keep up with the spread of piracy.

The exact amount lost to copyright holders in Asian nations is difficult to gauge, but some estimate more than $2.5 billion per year in lost revenue.

The MPA has launched several attempts over the past two years to stifle piracy in China, though each attempt lacked any real organization. Last November, Jeboo.com, another Chinese Web site, was also sued by MPA, alleging it allowed users in the country's Internet cafes to pirate copyrighted music.

The International Federation of Phonographic Industries, the international music industry trade group, successfully stopped Yahoo China from linking to Web sites hosting pirated music, and hopes to win a similar suit against Baidu, China's leading Web search engine.

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