Lawsuits resume against illegal file sharers

Suing people for illegal file sharing appears to have made a comeback, CNET reports—although now it’s smaller studios that are the plaintiffs. News that Voltage Pictures, producers of the Oscar-winning film “The Hurt Locker,” filed a federal copyright complaint last week against 5,000 alleged file sharers caught many in the file-sharing community off guard. Hadn’t the film and music industries dumped a litigation strategy in favor of a much more subtle approach, one that didn’t drag fans into court where they stood to lose thousands of dollars? It’s true, the trade groups for the major players in both these sectors, the Motion Picture Association of America and the Recording Industry Association of America, gave up suing file sharers. For the past couple years, they’ve tried to persuade internet service providers to suspend service to first-time copyright offenders—and though they don’t like talking about it much, the MPAA and RIAA would like chronic abusers to be permanently booted off the networks. None of this, however, would happen without the accused receiving plenty of warning. But the latest round of lawsuits isn’t being brought by gargantuan entertainment conglomerates, with their legions of lawyers and deep pools of cash. Instead, a dozen or so little-known film companies, with far fewer resources than the big studios, have mounted their own legal challenge to file sharing. And these guys appear to be playing by their own rules: In a few short months, they’ve filed lawsuits against a combined 50,000 people. The RIAA in five years filed complaints against fewer than 40,000…

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Viacom says YouTube ignored copyrights

Pointing to internal YouTube eMail messages, Viacom said in a court filing that the video site’s founders turned a blind eye when users uploaded copyrighted clips so they could amass a big audience and sell the company quickly, reports the New York Times. The charge was one of many made by Viacom in filings unsealed March 18 in its three-year-old copyright lawsuit against YouTube and Google, which bought YouTube in 2006 for $1.65 billion. Google fired back, saying Viacom was distorting the record by taking passages from eMail messages out of context. It also said Viacom employees and agents “continuously and secretly” uploaded clips from the company’s television shows and movies to YouTube for promotional purposes, even as they were complaining about copyright violations. “They are both tearing each other up, and both are scoring points,” said Eric Goldman, director of the High-Tech Law Institute at the Santa Clara University School of Law. The lawsuit accused YouTube of profiting from thousands of clips from Viacom movies and shows that were uploaded to the site without permission. It was filed at the height of tensions between Google and media companies over copyrights—tensions that have since eased substantially after YouTube set up an automated system to detect infringing videos. But more broadly, media companies remain wary of losing control as more of their products become digital, making them easier to copy…

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Librarians to colleges: Keep on streaming videos for courses

The Library Copyright Alliance has published a legal analysis of the use of streaming video in higher education, NewTeeVee reports, and the bottom line could be good news for colleges: Instructors are allowed to use streaming videos as part of their courses without obtaining special licenses to do so. The alliance, which counts the American Library Association and the Association of College & Research Libraries as its members, implores educators to “know and exercise their rights” to online video use. This position likely won’t go over well with publishers of educational videos, which have been stepping up their efforts to get universities to obtain special streaming licenses if they want to include videos on course web sites. The Association for Information and Media Equipment (AIME) threatened UCLA with a copyright lawsuit over its video streaming late last year, and the school responded by shutting down its online video platform. AIME has been arguing that displaying a movie on a web site isn’t the same thing as showing it in a classroom, even if there are access controls for the online video in place. But the Library Copyright Alliance believes there is no need to pay for these licenses in many occasions, as amendments to copyright law that include distance education also cover the display of films through class web sites…

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