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RealTime IT News

MPAA, RIAA Sue File-sharers

It was only a matter of time for the commencement of litigation some call "Napster: Part 2."

The motion picture and recording industries Wednesday moved to lay the litigious smackdown on file-sharing networks in a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

Despite the fact that the firms are scattered near and far, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) targeted a number of firms, including Tennessee's MusicCity.com, Inc. and MusicCity Networks, Inc. (which run the popular Morpheus service), West Indies-based Grokster, LTD and Amsterdam's Consumer Empowerment BV, or FastTrack, which operates the KaZaA service.

In the suit, the plaintiffs spared no drama in describing the various movie- and music-sharing services as a "21st century piratical bazaar where the unlawful exchange of protected materials takes place across the vast expanses of the Internet."

The court document also described attempts by the RIAA to notify MusicCity that it was infringing on copyrights. The plaintiffs charged that instead of ceasing and desisting with a "Napster-like service," the outfit instead expanded its file-sharing offerings (vis-à-vis the popular Morpheus network) to allow movies, images and software to be traded, including such not-yet-released for rental films as "Planet of the Apes" and "Legally Blonde."

MusicCity Networks Inc., Grokster and KaZaA all offer different services with Morpheus as the umbrella network, according to the suit.

But, according to digital entertainment research firm Webnoize's figures, FastTrack has served billions; the Cambridge, Mass. outfit said consumers transferred more than 1.5 billion digital media files in September alone. That's up 56 percent from the 970 million files downloaded in August.

FastTrack, according to Cambridge, Mass.'s Webnoize, is where plaintiffs may ultimately take aim.

"Since Fasttrack provides the technology behind all of the defendants, the plaintiffs in this case will work them hardest, urging them to settle out of court by agreeing to shut down MusicCity and Grokster," Dube said. "Even if that happens, they won't drop their case against MusicCity and Grokster because they need them as examples to set for others."

Webnoize Senior Analyst Matt Bailey underscored the major reason for FastTrack's popularity Wednesday when he noted it offers consumers "fast, reliable and free access to more material than any commercial subscription service is likely to offer."

Commercial subscription services indeed. The plaintiffs listed a fact unavailable to them the first time around in the ongoing court battle with Napster, the incredibly popular and original mass purveyor of music swapping, as RIAA President and CEO Hilary Rosen said: "We cannot sit idly by while these services continue to operate illegally, especially at a time when new legitimate services are being launched."

Rosen is referring to the pending arrivals of MusicNet and pressplay, online music subscription services slated to roll out November 22 and some time this fall, respectively. While MusicNet (spearheaded by AOL Time Warner, RealNetworks Inc., Bertelsmann AG and EMI Recorded Music) and pressplay (run by Yahoo!, Universal Music Group and Sony Music Entertainment) feature powerful and competitive backers, the firms have agreed to cross-license music to each others' platforms.

EMI was the first to do such a deal this week, when it pledged to license content from pressplay.