Studios Plan P2P Warning to Corporations

On the same day a top Commerce Department official said the government and the private sector needed to “actively tip the scales” in the long running dispute between “free but illegal” content and legitimate content providers, Hollywood movie studios and major music publishers were preparing a letter to U.S. corporations warning them about the legal liabilities of employees using company networks to download copyrighted movies and music.

According to a story in the Wall Street Journal, the Motion Picture Association of America, the Recording Industry Association of America, the National Music Publishers’ Association and the Songwriters Guild are prepared to warn U.S. companies that “allowing employees to use your corporate network to illegally distribute copyrighted music and movies is no different from software piracy.”

According to the report, the letter will be sent Friday to more than 1,000 major corporations and urges the companies to “take whatever steps necessary to ensure that your network is not being misused to infringe copyrighted works.” Earlier this year, the same groups sent similar letters to U.S. colleges and universities.

The disclosure came on the same day that Bruce J. Mehlman, the Department of Commerce’s assistant secretary for technology and a key intellectual property advisor to the White House, told a Washington panel that the government should take a more active role in the prosecution and discouragement of illegal downloading.

“We need to pursue and punish violations of copyright that are clearly illegal. Here government needs to work aggressively to take down piracy rings, shut down illegal Web sites and stop the most prolific file traders,” Mehlman told a Hertigage Foundation panel discussion on “Pirates and Posses: The Battle Over Digital Copyright.”

The Wall Street Journal story says the entertainment content publishers have the ability to track the networks that are serving as conduits for illegally downloaded content. The letter also warns that film and music publishers plan to “aggressively enforce our rights in cases of copyright infringement.”

In the past, the major content providers have focused their legal efforts on shutting down operators of peer-to-peer networks such as Napster and Grokster. According to the news report, the movie and music publishers don’t specifically threaten to take legal against companies that allow employees to illegally download content but the letter “references legal issues.”

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