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Studios Win Settlement Against Accused Pirate Helper

EXCLUSIVE: Is Hollywood plotting a new front in the anti-piracy war? Movie studios are looking at stifling websites that host copyright-infringing material by cutting off access to third parties providing material aid, such as search engine prominence, transactional support and advertising revenue.

Earlier this year, we reported that two studios, Warner Bros. and Disney, were suing Triton Media, alleged to have provided advertising consulting and referrals for nine websites identified as "one-stop-shops" for infringing works. The lawsuit, which was coordinated by the MPAA, has just been settled.

Triton Media has agreed to fork over $400,000 to the movie industry and quit providing any assistance to the nine websites identified in the original complaint, plus stop work for any other website that is substantially similar. As part of the settlement agreement (which still must be approved by a judge), Triton denies any liability or wrongdoing.

In a lawsuit that some critics called a "huge reach" upon filing, the film industry appears to have made a shrewd move. Now the big question is, "Who's next?"

The studios will have to contend with some appellate law that makes it difficult to win in court against so-called facilitators of copyright infringement (e.g. the Perfect 10 cases), but the latest settlement could bolster the industry's confidence against other third parties.

For example, Google has recently been criticized by a society of big copyright owners for "enter[ing] into business partnerships with sites whose business model is obvious infringement of the works of U.S. creators."

Does the MPAA have the stomach to pick a fight with the elephants in the room or will it aim to pick the cherries of low-hanging fruit from companies like Triton?