Video File-Sharing Program Prompts Lawsuit

SAN MATEO (07/21/2000) - Another log was added this week to the bonfire raging over copyright infringement on the Internet as the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), and National Music Publishers Association (NMPA) filed suit in a New York federal district court against Scour Inc., alleging misuse of copyrighted digital video files.

The suit is the latest development in the ongoing digital-rights battle, which has made headlines since Napster's much-publicized spat with the music industry over use of audio files. Artists, including Metallica and Dr. Dre, are fighting to control and prevent distribution of copied MP3 music files through Napster's search programs and other online trading sources.

Scour, based in Beverly Hills, Calif., offers users an Internet search engine program that allows them to swap multimedia files through a file-sharing program. The suit seeks $150,000 for each copyrighted work infringed on and asks for a permanent injunction to force Scour to stop giving access to copyrighted materials.

"This is about stealing, plain and simple," said Jack Valenti, president and CEO of MPAA, in a statement.

Scour is giving access to copyrighted works such as movies now in theaters, including The Perfect Storm, The Patriot, and Gladiator, the suit alleges, as well as providing access to countless copyrighted songs.

The suit states, "Among the most pernicious effects of Scour's unlawful conduct is that it is teaching a generation of consumers that artists and copyright owners have no right to compensation for their work, and that motion pictures, sound recordings, and musical compositions are and should be free to anyone who can find them on the Internet."

Scour President Dan Rodriguez said he was surprised by the suit because the company had held conversations this week with entertainment companies, including Sony Corp., Warner Brothers Music Group Inc., and BMG Entertainment Inc.

Lia Schubert, a research analyst at InfoTrends Research Group Inc., in Boston, said that while the entertainment industry is caught in a legal battle, other industries still have time to assess their own digital-rights needs for protecting content such as corporate logos, online publications and text, and catalog images.

"Depending on the type of content you're trying to protect, you want to really take a look at why you're trying to protect it and whether it's worth protecting," Schubert said. "Or is it worth reconsidering a business model where you give away some low-quality content and have people pay for higher-quality content?"

According to Scour's Web site, the company has indexed 25 million multimedia files. Scour, however, states on the Web site that it does not assume any responsibility or liability for any communications or materials available at such linked sites.

James Evans is a Boston correspondent for the IDG News Service, an InfoWorld affiliate.

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