The MPAA announced today two more verdicts in its battle against sites that provide links to unauthorized movies. This month, U.S. District Judge George Wu entered consent judgments against Cinematube and Showstash, two sites that aggregated links to video streams from other sites. Like settlement agreements, consent judgments are entered into voluntarily by both sides. In nearly identical court orders, each company was found to have engaged in "contributory copyright infringement and inducement of copyright infringement by actively searching for, identifying, collecting, posting, organizing, indexing, and posting on his website ... links to infringing material, which has been posted on third-party websites." Cinematube was ordered to pay $1.375 million in damages for 55 pirated titles (download the judgment here), and Showstash $2.765 million for 108 titles (read it here). That's about $25,000 or $26,000 per flick.
Hollywood's Encino-based enforcers have now prevailed against three of the seven links sites the MPAA has sued -- the other victory being a default judgment against the operators of youTVPC, which now appears to provide links to video streams only from licensed operators such as Hulu. Still outstanding are claims against Peekvid, videohybrid, ssupload and pullmylink.
The summary nature of the wins against Cinematube, Showstash and youTVPC don't provide much in the way of legal precedents for the studios in future battles against link sites. But then, the MPAA doesn't believe these operations raise any new legal issues. Although defenders sometimes liken such sites to search engines -- automated entities that simply locate content online -- the MPAA's lawsuits portray them as doing more to promote piracy than file-sharing networks such as Kazaa or eDonkey did. Said Seth Oster, the MPAA's chief spokesman, in an e-mail today:
“The judgments against Showstash and Cinematube demonstrate that the courts are applying the principles of landmark legal decisions such as Grokster in finding that such sites such are liable for copyright infringement. And these latest rulings demonstrate that the courts will not hesitate to award damages commensurate with the harm they cause to copyright holders."
Not that the sites are likely to pay those damages. The defendants entered into confidential settlements with the studios that presumably call for less onerous payments.