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Legal Sparks Fly in Movie File-Trading

24 Nov, 2004 By: Holly J. Wagner

The score was Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) 2, Watchdogs 1, Pirates 0 last week in cases to penalize movie pirates.

In one case, a California court ordered MasterSurf, Inc., a California corporation its owner and president Tan Soo Leong, who lives in Malaysia, to pay $23.8 million to studios for direct and secondary copyright infringement. MasterSurf operated Film88.com, a Web site that charged users to stream movies.

In another case, Warner Bros. won a $309,600 judgment against actor Carmine Caridi for allegedly making copies of awards screeners. Caridi was at the center of a case that prompted a ban on DVD screeners to awards voters. A judge later lifted the ban. A Warner spokesperson said Caridi refused to respond to a civil suit for copyright infringement, forcing the studio to ask a U.S. District Court for a default judgment of $150,000 per film and $9,600 in attorney fees. Judge Stephen Wilson — known in the industry for his controversial decision in the Grokster case — granted that request.

In a related matter, the Electronic Frontier Foundation reported that a judge barred a blanket MPAA lawsuit seeking the identities of a dozen suspected movie pirates. Judge William Alsup ruled that because claims against the 12 defendants were unrelated, grouping the defendants together into one big case was improper.

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