Motion Picture Association of America awarded $24 million in lawsuit

MUMBAI: This is a big win for the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) in its fight against online film piracy. A federal judge in Los Angeles has ordered MasterSurf and its owner to pay the motion picture studios $23.8 million for copyright infringement .

Through its now defunct site the company charged a fee for downloading an illegally pirated film.

A report in Reuters stated that a couple of years ago the MPAA had sued MasterSurf. However the company defaulted on its payment. That did not stop the studios from continuing to chase Tan Soo Leong who owns MasterSurf.

Another report in CNet indicates that the Film88 case provides a window into the difficulties faced by movie studios, record labels and other copyright owners as Internet piracy takes on an increasingly international flavor. The MPAA has had some success in the past shutting down movie-streaming sites. However countries that lack strong copyright laws upgrade their network infrastructure, that type of enforcement action could become more difficult over time.

Film88's original incarnation, the lawsuit alleged, was based in Taiwan under the name Movie88. That site, which launched in February 2002, provided the most sophisticated video-on-demand site seen to date on the Internet.

While the studios themselves were struggling to create similar sites, Movie88 allowed viewers to stream movies with a high video quality for just $1 by using RealNetworks technology. The company used to offer hundreds of Hollywood movies to viewers.

Working with the Taiwanese authorities, the MPAA was able to shut that site down. Then another site Film88 appeared in June.

At that time Film88's operator Hail Hami claimed that the new company was separate from the older venture but had recruited staff and taken ideas from Movie88.

But that site was also shut down, after MPAA contacted an Internet service provider in the Netherlands that was hosting Film88's content.

Meanwhile in a speech a few days ago at the National Press Club in the US MPAA president and CEO Dan Glickman outlined the challenges facing the movie industry in the 21st Century, stressing that the industry was well-positioned to confront and overcome them to launch a new 'Golden Age' for Hollywood. Citing the particularly difficult problem of movie piracy, Glickman stated that the industry must be forward-thinking and aggressive in protecting its creative products against theft.

He went on to state that the movie industry embodies creativity and innovation which are prerequisites for success. The movie industry's share of the American economy is growing faster than the rest of the economy. And the copyright industries are creating jobs at twice the rate of the rest of the economy. While this foundation for continued growth and reach is strong, Glickman stressed that the same factors that make the industry successful have the power to hurt it as well.

With access to high-speed Internet access increasing, and the movie industry already losing $3.5 billion annually to piracy, Glickman asserted that legal action is necessary to protect the future of moviemaking.

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