Movie Studios Continue To Go After Search Sites

MovieRumordotcomThe Motion Picture Association of America filed two new federal lawsuits this week against movie search engines that allegedly function as "one-stop-shops" for pirated clips, bringing the total of such suits to nine.

The newest cases are against MovieRumor and Free Online Movie Database. In both, the movie studios argue that the ad-supported companies are benefiting from piracy. "Defendants post, organize, search for, identify, collect and index links to infringing material that is available on third-party websites," the Motion Picture Association of America argues. "Defendants profit from their misconduct by displaying advertisements adjacent to the infringing content."

MovieRumor says on its Web site that content is hosted on third-party sites like YouTube, and that it removes copyrighted material at the owner's request. "This site was created with the intent that it is used as directory to homemade clips, trailers, promos, webcams and other content that does not infringe on any copyright holder," the site states.

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As of Wednesday, the home page of MovieRumor offered clips of first-run features such as "The X-Files: I Want to Believe" and "Batman: The Dark Knight."

The Web site of the other recently sued company, Free Online Movie Database (fomdb.com), did not appear to be operational on Wednesday.

Although these types of lawsuits have proliferated, legal questions about search engines' liability for copyright infringement remain unsettled.

In May, courts issued injunctions shuttering two of the nine sites--Showstash and Cinematube--but those sites consented to the shutdown. Showstash also agreed to pay damages of around $2.7 million, while Cinematube agreed to pay around $1.4 million.

Meanwhile, at least one defendant, VideoHybrid, is mounting a defense to the allegations. In court papers filed in May, VideoHybrid argued that the federal Digital Millennium Copyright Act's safe harbor provisions shield the company from liability.

Other film search sites sued by the movie studios include Pullmylink, PeekVid, YouTVpc and Ssupload.

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