RealTime IT News

Software Gives Parents Chance to Snoop

As part of three-pronged, anti-piracy attack launched Tuesday, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) plans to release free software to help parents determine what movie and music titles their children have stored on a computer, along with any installed peer-to-peer (P2P) file-swapping programs.

In addition to the snooping software, the MPAA filed civil lawsuits seeking damages and injunctive relief against an undisclosed number of P2P movie file-swappers and announced an anti-piracy publicity campaign that will be rolled out in approximately 10,000 video rental stores nationwide.

According to the MPAA, information generated by the free software program will be available only to the program's user and will not be "shared with or reported" to the MPAA or any other organization.

"Our ultimate goal is to help consumers locate the resources and information they need to make appropriate decisions about using and trading illegal files," Dan Glickman, MPAA president and CEO, said in a statement. "Many parents are concerned about what their children have downloaded and where they've downloaded it from. They will find this tool to be an excellent resource."

The MPAA's Respect Copyrights site will link to the download site for the Windows-compatible program when it becomes available.

Two weeks ago, the MPAA warned users of P2P networks, such as KaZaa, eDonkey and Gnutella, that lawsuits similar to the music industry's campaign against music file-swappers were coming.

Tuesday, the MPAA declined to either name the number of lawsuits filed, the cities where the actions were filed or the P2P networks singled out.

Under the Copyright Act, statutory damages reach $30,000 for each separate motion picture illegally copied or distributed over the Internet and as much as $150,000 per picture if the infringement is proven to be willful.

"The motion picture industry must pursue legal proceedings against people who are stealing our movies on the Internet," Glickman said. "The future of our industry, and of the hundreds of thousands of jobs it supports, must be protected from this kind of outright theft using all available means."

The MPAA said the average number of infringing movie titles traded daily in the United States through P2P networks ranges from 115,000 to 148,000 downloads. The film industry's data says the average downloaded film is 1.35 gigabytes and takes 12 to 18 hours to download. Newer technology, the MPAA claims, can reduce that time to three to six hours.

By contrast, the average music file is 3 megabytes and can be downloaded from P2P networks in a matter of seconds. Since September 2003, the music industry has been aggressively suing song file-swappers, filing more than 5,000 legal actions.

"These initiatives are part of our efforts to ensure the Digital Age does not get commandeered by thieves who see it as an open grab bag," Glickman said. "The motion picture industry is embracing Digital Age technologies, such as Movielink and CinemaNow, that will create so many exciting new opportunities. But legal services such as these need a chance to grow and thrive without having to compete against illegitimate operations that depend on stolen property to survive."