Another lawsuit can be added to the battle raging over copyright infringement on the Internet. The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and the National Music Publishers Association (NMPA) filed suit Thursday in a federal district court in New York against Scour Inc. alleging copyright infringement.
Scour, based in Beverly Hills, California, offers its users an Internet search engine program that lets them swap multimedia files through a file-sharing program. The suit seeks not less than US$150,000 for each copyrighted work that was infringed upon and asks for a permanent injunction to force Scour to cease giving access to copyrighted materials.
"This is about stealing, plain and simple," said Jack Valenti, MPAA's president and chief executive officer, in a statement. "Creative works are valuable property and taking them without permission is stealing, whether you download movies illegally or shoplift them from a store."
Scour is giving access to copyrighted works like movies now in theaters, including "The Perfect Storm," "The Patriot," "Gladiator" and "Mission: Impossible 2," the suit alleges. It also alleges that Scour's technology provides its users with access to countless copyrighted songs.
Scour has always been responsible and a legally compliant partner within the entertainment community, company President Dan Rodrigues said in a statement. Legal compliance is of "utmost concern," he said, and all Scour services have complied with all applicable laws, including the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998.
"We're very surprised about this morning's MPAA and RIAA lawsuit, given our productive conversations just this week with Sony, Warner and BMG regarding establishing business relationships with these companies," Rodrigues said in the statement. "We also have a previously scheduled meeting with Universal.
Adding to the confusion caused by this action, Scour already has licensed content agreements from Miramax and Hollywood Records, both of whom are plaintiffs in this lawsuit."
According to Scour's Web site, the company links users to thousands of computers and 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.
Scour also posts on its site a notice that it is "sensitive to the rights of copyright owners" and provides a system for copyright owners to notify Scour of any links to sites found through the company's search engine that contain material without the proper permission of the copyright owner.
According to the suit, the motion picture and music industry allege that Scour's business is booming. Scour came online in April. In a month's time, the site saw its traffic rise from 242,000 unique users to 443,000 unique users.
Scour is offering a quick and easy path to copyrighted materials, the industries contend.
"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," the suit states. "That view is contrary to the Constitutional foundation of copyright law."