Late last month, the Motion Picture Association of America sued Movie Tube for allegedly infringing copyright by offering downloads of pirated videos.
The lawsuit itself isn't especially striking, given that the entertainment industry has long targeted Web sites that allegedly enable people to watch movies or listen to music without paying.
But some of the orders requested by the MPAA are raising eyebrows. That's because the studios aren't just seeking an injunction against MovieTube's 29 Web sites -- believed to be operated from Singapore-based servers. The MPAA also is asking U.S. District Court Judge Paul Crotty in the Southern District of New York to prohibit online service providers -- including tech giants Google, Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo and Tumblr -- from providing any services to MovieTube.
The studios say they're entitled to that order on the theory that Google, Facebook and the others enable the ad-supported MovieTube to attract Web users.
"Defendants’ aggressive promotion and search-engine optimization of the MovieTube Websites has permitted them to profit off their blatantly infringing activities," the MPAA says in its request for an injunction that would affect the tech companies.
The MPAA adds that MovieTube increases its ad revenue by using social media to drive traffic, such as by "embedding Facebook user comments" on MovieTube's sites.
This week, Google and the other Web companies weighed in against the request, which they say "violates basic principles of due process."
"Plaintiffs’ effort to bind the entire Internet to a sweeping preliminary injunction is impermissible," the companies write in a friend-of-the-court brief.
The tech companies argue that they shouldn't be subject to the "breathtakingly broad" proposed injunction because they're "neutral service providers," who haven't been accused of doing anything wrong.
"Plaintiffs fail to show (or even allege) that any neutral service provider has played an active and direct role in defendants’ allegedly infringing activities -- much less that all of the intermediaries that would be swept up by the proposed injunction have done so," the companies argue.
Google, Yahoo and the other tech companies also point out that Congress failed to pass the Stop Online Piracy Act -- which would have allowed the type of injunction sought by the MPAA. That law, backed by the entertainment industry, died in 2012 after widespread condemnation by Internet companies and digital rights activists.
"Congress recently rejected a push to change the law to authorize exactly these kinds of broad-based online blocking orders," Google and the others say. "The court should not allow intellectual property rightsholders to obtain ... the very sort of third-party blocking orders that failed to gain legislative approval."
Crotty has scheduled a hearing in the matter for Aug. 18.