MPAA lawsuits are secondary

Studios claim sites linking to file-sharers are liable

Hollywood studios are suing a pair of dot-coms that provide links to scores of file-sharing Web sites, extending a campaign targeting the unauthorized dissemination of copyright material.

The MPAA filed the suits Tuesday on behalf of its member studios. The U.S. District Court actions seek to shut down YouTVpc.com and Peekvid.com and ask for unspecified monetary damages.

"The sole purpose of these sites is to disseminate content that has been illegally reproduced and distributed," said John Malcolm, executive vp and worldwide anti-piracy director at the MPAA. "They are a one-stop shop for copyright infringement."

Both sites are minimally advertiser-supported and offer links to sites offering downloads of film, TV and music clips. YouTVpc.com also accepts "donations" from users through a tab linking to Internet-commerce facilitator PayPal.

The MPAA — which has targeted file-sharing Web sites but never sites merely linking to file-sharing sites — said San Antonio-based Peekvid.com averages more than 53,000 unique users per day. YouTVpc.com, which uses servers located in Scottsdale, Ariz., averages more than 6,000 unique daily visitors, the MPAA estimated.

"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," Malcolm said. "Profiting from the theft of other people's creative works is illegal and must be stopped."

Peekvid.com has a disclaimer posted prominently on its home page noting that it "does not contain any content on its site but is merely an index of available links on the Internet."

Perhaps less clear is this additional notation: "Peekvid is committed to an industry solution that will provide a mechanism to compensate artists that create the work you enjoy watching. Peekvid would like to be part of the long-term solution."

Jeffrey Liebenson, an entertainment and intellectual property attorney at Herrick, Feinstein in New York, said the chief issue in the suits will be whether the sites are guilty of "secondary" infringing activity.

"If they know that direct infringements are occurring and they materially contribute to that, then they may be liable for contributory infringement," Liebenson said. "If they control the activity where the infringement occurs and obtain a direct financial benefit, (they) would be viewed as a vicarious infringer.

"Also, the Supreme Court in the 2005 Grokster case established that anyone taking direct steps to encourage infringement, such as advertising or promoting such activity, may be guilty of inducement of infringement."

Defendants in the suit against YouTVpc.com include Billy Duran and Sam Martinez, identified as owners of the site. The suit against Peekvid.com names only the site and John Does to be named later.

"We have developed a solution to help detour illegal downloading, and the MPAA is attacking us rather than capitalizing," Duran said when contacted for comment.

He further suggested that YouTVpc.com represents an example of technology outpacing existing business models. "I hope eventually the industry will see it the same way," he said.

Representatives of Peekvid.com were not immediately available.

Studio plaintiffs in the suits are represented by the Century City law firm of McDermott Will & Emery.

Andrew Wallenstein contributed to this report.
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