October 24, 2002 11:52 AM PDT

Studios, RIAA warn CEOs on file trading

Record companies and movie studios are turning an anti-piracy spotlight on corporate America, sending a letter to top CEOs this week warning of illegal file trading going on at "a surprising number of companies."

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and songwriters' associations have drafted a letter expected to be sent Friday to the Fortune 1000 companies, cautioning executives that employees' song- or movie-swapping could put them at legal risk.

"It appears that many corporate network users are taking advantage of fast Internet connections at work by publicly uploading and downloading infringing files on P2P (peer to peer) services, and also distributing and storing such files on corporate intranets," the groups wrote. "The use of your digital network to pirate music, movies, and other copyrighted works both interferes with the business purposes your network was built to serve and subjects your employees and your company to significant legal liability."

The corporate letter is one part of an aggressive new effort by the content holders' trade associations that aims to push Internet file-traders off many of the fastest networks that support their actions.

Earlier this month, the same groups sent a similar letter to university officials, warning them of growing file-sharing use on their networks. That letter stopped short of threatening legal liability for the educational institutions themselves, but said the campuses should institute and enforce strong policies against the use of networks for digital copyright infringement.

The RIAA is also in the midst of a high-profile consumer education campaign, enlisting well-known artists from Madonna to the Rolling Stones to participate in advertisements and other media exhortations against piracy.

The letter isn't the first time that the copyright holders have turned their eyes on businesses, however.

Last April, the RIAA announced a legal settlement of $1 million with Arizona company Integrated Information Systems, after alleging that the company had let its employees trade copyrighted files over its internal network. The group has said in recent weeks that other companies face similar issues, but that it could not comment specifically on ongoing investigations.

Businesses are already more used to dealing with the threat of software piracy. Microsoft and the Business Software Alliance (BSA), a trade group representing software companies, routinely announce settlements with companies that have, for example, used more copies of programs such as Microsoft Office than their licenses allow.

But the idea of entertainment content on internal networks being somehow dangerous is still a relatively unfamiliar one for most businesses. Some major companies have already tapped technology companies such as Websense for tools to use in keeping unwanted content out of corporate networks. Websense recently announced a new tool that would target peer-to-peer file traders.

 

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