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Analysts: File-Sharing Court Win Has Little Impact on Movies

10 Oct, 2007 By: Erik Gruenwedel

The music industry's recent court victory whereby a Minnesota woman was found guilty of sharing illegally downloaded music files isn't expected to hinder illegal movie downloads, say media analysts and consumer advocates.

They say technology, or lack thereof, impedes all but the most dedicated hacker from disseminating a typical Hollywood movie beyond their computer screen.

Jammie Thomas was found guilty by a Duluth jury and fined $220,000, or $9,250 per song. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), which filed the suit on behalf of Capitol Records and others, had sought millions in damages.

Richard Doherty, media analyst with The Envisioneering Group, said the sheer size of a movie file compared to a relatively minuscule music file coupled with aggressive antipiracy efforts by the movie industry have limited illegal downloads.

He said the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) has been successful infiltrating online networks with phony Hollywood movies, which upon being illegally downloaded over several hours, tells the culprit, better luck next time.

“Instead of getting Debbie Does Dallas, you get ‘Digital Does Nothing' on your desktop,” Doherty said.

He said the amount of damages awarded to the RIAA in light of the legal fees spent prosecuting the case would likely prevent the MPAA from considering similar action against a consumer.

Doherty said the RIAA usually sends cease and desist letters to alleged pirates and fines them thereafter upon non-compliance.

He said if a movie pirate attempts to share multiple titles from a PC, the device's bandwidth would evaporate. With the time required to transfer a movie via a file-sharing network, the odds of an interruption during the process increases.

“There are more tech frustrations in trying to steal a movie than a music CD,” Doherty said.

The MPAA is pleased with the ruling, indicating it underscored the value of intellectual copyrights.

“The case demonstrates that the courts will hold people accountable for illegally downloading on the Internet,” said Elizabeth Kaltman, a spokesperson for the MPAA.

Fred von Lohmann, senior intellectual property attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco-based civil liberties organization, said the case was shortsighted and underscored the music industry's refusal to accept the new boundaries of electronic distribution.

“Rather than worrying so much about how to erase all the music when a subscriber stops paying, the music industry needs to worry more about giving music fans a reason to come in from the P2P/iPod swapping/CD burning cold,” Lohmann said in a statement. “We hate to sound like a broken record … but how about offering fans a blanket downloading license for a few dollars a month?”

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