Group sues movie pirates

Movie studios are taking legal action against people who illegally download movies.

Alan Butterworth

Illegal movie distributors might want to think twice before downloading the latest Hollywood blockbuster.

That’s because movie studios are taking legal action against people who download movies illegally from the Internet.

The Motion Picture Association of America is filing the lawsuits. The association, which represents seven major film studios – including 20th Century Fox Film Corp. and Universal City Studios LLLP – began filing the suits this week.

“There’s no safe harbor,” association spokesman Matthew Grossman said. “If you are trafficking our members’ copyrighted products, you put yourself at risk.”

The association is following similar action taken by the recording industry to curb Internet piracy.

In June, University officials provided the Recording Industry Association of America with the names of two students who used the University’s Internet service provider to share copyrighted music.

So far, the University has not received subpoenas requesting students’ names in connection with the association’s lawsuit.

“Given the size of our student population, there’s probably a pretty good chance that one of our students will get tangled up in a lawsuit,” said Steve Cawley, associate vice president of the Office of Information Technology.

Cawley said the University regularly receives notices from copyright holders asking them to take action to stop the sharing of inappropriate material on the University network.

“In a given month, we get 80, 90, 100 of these notices, and the majority of them are for movies,” he said.

University General Counsel Mark Rotenberg said University students have privacy rights, and the University carefully guards those rights. He said students’ names will only be released if the subpoenas are lawful and compel disclosure.

“The RIAA and the film industry can’t just go on a fishing expedition,” Rotenberg said.

He said the University does not condone illegal trafficking of movies.

Grossman said the litigation is part of an ongoing campaign to educate and inform the public that downloading of copyrighted material is illegal and immoral.

He said the motion picture assocation has worked extensively with universities over the last year. Their outreach program worked with the Joint Committee of the Higher Education and Entertainment Communities to seek ways to reduce the inappropriate use of file-sharing technology without compromising important academic values and practices, invading privacy or limiting legitimate use.

Cawley said the University has made efforts at communication and education around issues of copyright. At orientation, students receive material explaining what copyrights mean, what the student code of conduct is and what the University network agreement says about students’ responsibilities.

He said he thinks the University policy has been fairly effective.

“We don’t get repeat offenders. If we get a notice, we talk to the students, they cut it out and they don’t do it again,” he said.

Cawley said there are currently no plans to implement movie downloads into Rhapsody, the University’s online music service.

University student Andrew Stortecky said he thinks the movie producers are to blame for Internet movie file-sharing.

“The people who actually create the movies do not actually get all that money,” he said. “It’s advertising and all the other junk that steals away the money, causing the consumers to pay a lot more than they should.”

Graduate student John Miller said he thinks the legal action will have an effect.

“It somewhat slowed the downloading of music, and it will probably somewhat slow the downloading of movies, too,” he said.