The sites offered free streams of copyrighted films, including the latest <i>X-Files</i>, <i>Batman</i>, and <i>Hellboy</i> movies.

Antone Gonsalves, Contributor

July 30, 2008

2 Min Read

The Motion Picture Association of America has sued two sites that show free movies, including recent releases, by streaming the films from third-party Web sites that offer the copyright-infringing movies.

The Hollywood group, which represents all the major studios, filed the lawsuit Monday in Los Angeles federal court against, which stands for Free Online Movie Database, and As of Wednesday, the address could no longer be found, but was still showing films, including the recently released The X-Files: I Want To Believe, Batman: The Dark Knight, and Hellboy II: The Golden Army.

The MPAA claimed the sites "contribute to and profit from massive copyright infringement" by searching the Web for pirated copies of the films, organizing links to the movies on the Web sites, and then allowing visitors to watch them through an embedded player. The sites sell advertising to make money.

John Malcolm, executive VP and director of anti-piracy operations for the MPAA, said in a statement that sites like the defendants' were "profiting from the theft of protected content."

"We have every intention of shutting down these, and sites like them, for good," Malcolm said. and have movie-streaming servers in Charlotte, N.C., and Chicago, respectively, the MPAA said. The two sites combined attract more than 27,000 unique visitors a day who view more than 97,000 pages of content.

On Wednesday, a visitor to could watch The X Files. The showing, however, was grainy and included Spanish subtitles. Rustling sounds in the background indicated that someone in a movie theater might have taped the film.

The lawsuits seek damages and ask the court to order the sites shut down. The MPAA has sued seven other similar sites since June 2007, according to the group. In May of this year, a Los Angeles federal judge awarded multimillion-dollar judgments against and for copyright infringement stemming from the showing of movies and TV shows. Both sites are now closed.

The MPAA claims the movie industry lost $18.2 billion in 2005 as a result of piracy. More than $7 billion of that was attributed to Internet piracy, with the rest coming from hard-goods piracy, including bootlegging and illegal copying.

Movie studios have aggressively pursued copyright infringement on the Web. The cases, however, are not always clear-cut. Viacom, which owns Paramount and MTV Networks, has filed a $1 billion lawsuit against YouTube and its parent, Google. The suit claims YouTube hasn't done enough to prevent, find, and take down copyrighted material uploaded by users. YouTube claims it's doing all it can to prevent illegal material from staying on the site by removing infringing material as soon as the copyright holder notifies it.

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