June 29, 2007 4:00 AM PDT

File-sharing 'graveyard' still filling up

A correction was made to this story. Read below for details.
To some, these were corporate executions, death by litigation.

LokiTorrent, Scour, SuperNova.org, Aimster and the original Napster were just a few of those sued out of existence, the victims of the entertainment industry's fear of technology, say the companies' supporters. Media execs say justice was done. Those companies profited from illegal file sharing, they say, and enabled others to pick the pockets of actors, musicians and other copyright owners.

Now a new battle is heating up. The search engine TorrentSpy is accused in a lawsuit filed last year by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) of allegedly helping users locate pirated movies online. As the site's parent company, Valence Media, tries to fend off a court order to hand over user information to the MPAA, TorrentSpy's operators say they would likely shut down in the U.S. before complying. In a move that is seen in some corners as a capitulation, TorrentSpy and competitor IsoHunt agreed this week to prevent their search engines from linking to copyrighted material.

"It's vital to leave room for innovation. You have to give technology a chance to develop into something."
--Fred von Lohmann, Electronic Frontier Foundation attorney

Seven years after a judge ordered Napster to halt music swapping, online piracy continues to thrive. Some estimates hold that the large video and music files passing back and forth over the Internet chew up more than a third of the Web's bandwidth. Meanwhile, the movie industry is following in the footsteps of the record companies by waging prolonged legal battles.

The question is, why?

"The Internet's graveyard is deep with companies that have been sued out of business by the entertainment industry," said Fred von Lohmann, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which advocates for the rights of Internet users. "I think the prevailing sense is that they are winning the battles but losing the war. Despite the lawsuits, there is more file sharing than ever."

Kori Bernards, an MPAA spokeswoman, said the organization doesn't reveal its strategy but she did outline the group's overall plan to deal with piracy.

"We are rooting out those who enable copyright infringement on the Internet," Bernards said. "We will continue to take such actions against sites that are profiting from the theft of other people's creative works...Our strategy is to go after people committing copyright theft on the Internet at all levels."

Copyright theft costs the film industry billions, according to the MPAA. In 2005, the top U.S. studios generated $23 billion in worldwide ticket sales but say they lost $2 billion, or 8 percent, to online piracy.

The lawsuits are little more than "scare tactics," declared Peter Sunde, one of the cofounders of The Pirate Bay, the Internet's largest trackers of BitTorrent files--the technology favored by many to transfer large amounts of data over the Web. Based in Sweden, The Pirate Bay's headquarters were raided by police last year after the U.S. government pressed Sweden to shut down the site. The efforts failed.

"The MPAA is using legal muscle to scare people but really they are the ones who are afraid," Sunde said. "They fear technology but technology always prevails."

Others suspect that the MPAA's ambitions go beyond trying to frighten file sharers. Ira Rothken, TorrentSpy's attorney, who has argued numerous copyright cases against the entertainment industry, argues the MPAA appears to be attempting to extend its control over Internet copyright issues.

First, rights holders pursued Napster for hosting unauthorized music files on Napster servers. They then went after Grokster and Streamcast, which produced software that was often used to pirate copyright content. (The courts ruled that the companies could not be held responsible for the criminal acts committed by users, but the Supreme Court reversed that decision.) And now the studios are after TorrentSpy, which does not have any direct contact with copyright material.

"It's one thing for someone to be hosting illegal copyright works on their site," Rothken said, "but the MPAA is trying to hold TorrentSpy liable for search results that link to torrent files. Copyright files never even touch TorrentSpy--not in any way, shape or form."

Lawsuits can pay off
Regardless of the criticism, there are signs that litigation does pay dividends. The MPAA is winning important decisions in the courts, most recently on May 29, when a U.S. magistrate judge ordered TorrentSpy to begin tracking user activity and then turn the data over to the MPAA.

TorrentSpy doesn't log such data, but the judge said that because the information exists, even if for only a short while, on computer RAM, TorrentSpy was obligated to collect and then turn the information over to the MPAA as part of the discovery process--where parties in a lawsuit exchange information. TorrentSpy has appealed the decision.

This kind of court ruling could be a very useful tool for fighting piracy, according to Richard Charnley, an attorney who has represented Fox and ABC in copyright cases.

"I think being able to access the identities of end users will certainly go a long way to shutting down potential infringement," Charnley said.

And TorrentSpy's recent moves indicate that perhaps the scare tactics also work.

Pirate Bay's Sunde was highly critical of TorrentSpy and its co-founder Justin Bunnell for launching a filtering system, called FileRights, that is designed to automatically remove links to infringing works. "First of all, Justin," wrote Sunde on his blog this week, "you know this is not going to work."

He suggests that TorrentSpy is either trying to save itself by appeasing the film industry or attempting to dupe the MPAA and the courts into believing that filtering BitTorrent files can effectively stop illegal downloads. It can't, according to Sunde.

Rothken points out that FileRights only automates the take-down process required by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. For a long time, TorrentSpy and many U.S.-based competitors have removed links to copyright material when contacted by rights holders, he said.

So where does this leave the film industry if TorrentSpy and its competitors can't come up with a technology fix and they can't be sued into submission?

EFF's von Lohmann urges the movie industry to exercise some patience. He points out that if the studios were successful in killing off the VCR back in the 1970s, they would never have reaped billions of dollars from movie rentals.

"Everybody forgets that when the VCR was first developed, most of the uses were infringing copyright," von Lohmann said. "There was no Blockbuster or legitimate way to rent movies back then. It's vital to leave room for innovation. You have to give technology a chance to develop into something."

Meanwhile, Charnley and von Lohmann agree the studios must offer a more attractive proposition than the one being dangled by file sharing. They essentially have to learn to compete with free downloads.

"Ironically, if the studios changed their business model, that would put Napster's progeny out of business," Charnley said. "If they offer something that's legal, easy to use and affordable--these sites are useless."

 

Correction: The original version of this story failed to mention that the Supreme Court reversed lower-court rulings favoring Grokster and Streamcast.

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21 comments

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Typical Failed Strategies
Just like the drug industry, lets go after the user instead of the guys supplying the stuff.

Why not go after the hacker groups that are supplying the stuff, thats a lot smaller number than the bajillion end users out there. The suppliers will always do it because the can, even if 1 or none download the content, but if end users have no content to download, end of story.

Just my stupid opinion
Posted by SuprSpy79 (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Lies and misinformation.
I would just like to comment on a few things I saw throughout this artical. Personally I believe that if the author is going to put statistics the MPAA has given them into their paper then they should at least show the actual statisics that sharply contrast those of the MPAA. Truth is, 1/3 of the internet's traffic is NOT p2p sharing..
Secondly, the MPAA doesn't loose as much money as it says it does to p2p filesharing. If anything both the MPAA and RIAA have benefitted somewhat from this. More and more studies are showing that the actual cause for the decline in sales has to do with how much dvds cost as well as the average movie at any corporate theater.
The truth is, if the MPAA and RIAA are allowed to continue their assult on websites that do NOT profit off of their hosting of torrents, they will soon be granted the power to ask any site for their logs. This would be yet another attack on the privacy of individuals all in order for them to make more money and destroy those who are weaker than them.
Posted by xaggroth (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Protect Yourself
Protect yourself from the shameless tactics of the MPAA to collect money that isn't theirs. Download PeerGuardian 2 and always have it running on your computer. Make sure that it is blocking MediaSentry, the RIAA and MPAA's illegal tracking program.

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://phoenixlabs.org/pg2/" target="_newWindow">http://phoenixlabs.org/pg2/</a>
Posted by rich966 (40 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Two words: Porn and Newsgroups
First, piracy does not hurt the music and movie companies in
the least. The most pirated media is pornography and that
industry is booming. If piracy really did hurt the XXX business
would be out of business. Most people who download pirated
movies would not buy them in the first place so it is not a lost
sale. Many downloaders buy movies if they really like them.

Second, don't use P2P. Use newsgroups instead. There is actually
more content available, it is totally anonymous, and it is under
the radar of the copyright goons.

Good downloading all!
Posted by expatincebu (156 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Shhhhhhh
Don't tell everyone about newsgroups!!! :) They are great but they are not totally anonymous. Most news services require registration and $$. Unless you pay by money order there's some way to track you. I use them but I never download copyrighted material.......
Posted by jayhawk73 (61 comments )
Link Flag
Very Poor Reporting
The article is full of factual errors and biases; 1) for example, the MPAA didn't sue Napster, Streamcast, and Grokster. The RIAA did. 2) Not once is the point of view of the copyright holders voiced; the only interviewees are the people who help with theft. 3) Ridiculous arguments are brought unchallenged: "Technology always wins". Technology is a support for a purpose. Purposes win or lose. The purpose here is not the technology; it is theft.

If you disagree with the law, the go change the law. In the meantime, it still is theft.
Posted by Rants&Raves (199 comments )
Reply Link Flag
You are incorrect
R&#38;R
Please read deeper into the story. The MPAA's spokesman is quoted as well as Richard Charnley, an attorney who has worked for ABC and Fox. Also I said at that the entertainment industry was responsible for bringing the suits against Napster, Scour and the rest of the companies listed at the very beginning of the story. Thanks for reading. GS
Posted by sandonet (318 comments )
Link Flag
Reading Not Reporting the problem here
Nowhere does the author claim that the MPAA sued Napster et. al. It was the "entertainment industry."

Nowhere does the author condone "stealing" but simply points out that the technology (i.e. Bitorrent, P2P, etc) can't (and probably shouldn't) be stiffled simply because the entertainment industry hasn't figured it out yet, and gives a brilliant example with the VCR. If the MPAA and their ilk had their way we would not be able to "steal" TV shows for later watching and use. Those same arguments would have also killed off "next gen" items like Tivo before they could have gotten off the ground under the same "theft" premise.

So, all in all, the biggest problem is you reading into the story things that just aren't there.
Posted by JayMonster (90 comments )
Link Flag
It's not death Its Evolution in action
You should not think of "dead" p2p applications are being in a grave yard.
All they have done is transformed and advanced.
Think of napster with that service you could only trade music files.
When it got killed Napster became kazaa, when that died kazaa became edonkey, when that died edonkey became emule, torrents, nzb, etc...
it's not death your seeing its evolution in action.
Posted by kobe wild (12 comments )
Reply Link Flag
P2P is not the main threat to the movie industry...
P2P is not the main threat to the movie industry, people making movies from home are. The quality of home production is ramping up fast. Soon random people off the street will be on par with the large studios.

If we want to save Hollywood, we must stamp out unauthorized creativity now!
Posted by ralfthedog (1589 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Theater Ticket Prices Are
read heading
Posted by khuss66 (11 comments )
Link Flag
You have corrected yourself
The original story claimed that "They... pursued Napster"; the previous name this pronoun was referring to was the MPAA. The new revised version now reads "The rights holders pursued Napster", which corrects the statement whose veracity I was previously arguing against.

As for quotes: so there is one from the right holder's perspective for every 9 arguing that theft is ok for technical reasons (technology marches on, etc.). This is clearly not an even story.
Posted by Rants&Raves (199 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Again you are incorrect
There are five people quoted in the story, two of them representing copyright holders. And to clarify, the MPAA, which represents the major Hollywood Studios suing TorrentSpy, was asked multiple times for an interview. The statement in the story was the group's reply.
Posted by sandonet (318 comments )
Link Flag
It's corruption
When you search for content on a P2P network you have to find the search criteria.
Most of the names people know is of populist developments.
This puts populism above the indie groups.
This in turn makes fat cats rich.
Itunes does very well but it by no means represents indie groups fairly and no judge really complains.
Mp3.com represented the indie scene and it got crushed straight away.
It's a god driven war chant minipulating domesticated people in essence readying for war with the tao movement proclaiming freedom to all and giveing power to but a few.
Posted by wildchild_plasma_gyro (296 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Arthur Murray Patents?
I always wondered: What if the same insanity that has engulfed the music/publishing industry, had infected people and organizations like Arhur Murray, Balanchine and other choreographers?

Every time you'd be dancing Foxtrot, Swing, some other social dance you may be liable for a hefty royalty fee. Same for a dance troupe performing an established chorography from say Cats or West-Side Story.

What would happen to dance studios? What would happen to shows like Dancing With The Stars, or America Got Talent? What would happen to any local or international dance competition?

Yet the creators flourish despite the fact that a given Salsa move does not require anyone to pay royalites to the first person or couple ever to come up with it.

And now think of famous plays in the world of sports....
Posted by batavier (66 comments )
Reply Link Flag
All they have done is kill the search engines
for BitTorrent and the BT trackers are still online that actually send the bits of files back and forth over the Internet.

For every BT search engine you take down, five more will take its place. It won't stop the pirates that already share files on BitTorrent, it will only slow them down.

Now if you really want to make a dent, hit the BT Trackers and take them down. Otherwise you are just whistling in the dark.

Most people pirate songs and movies and software because the prices are too high. Try lowering them sometime to combat piracy.

MPAA and RIAA and BSA the more you squeeze the file sharing community, the more it slips through your hands like water.
Posted by Orion Blastar (590 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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