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MPAA Draws a Bead on TV Piracy

May 16, 2005  •  Post A Comment

The Motion Picture Association of America planned to file a number of lawsuits last week against online peer-to-peer file-sharing networks that illegally trade in large volumes of pirated TV shows.

The MPAA said the lawsuits against six BitTorrent sites are the association’s first large-scale effort to attack the mushrooming problem of TV piracy. The MPAA’s work to fight film piracy has been well chronicled; now the group says it’s serious about protecting its members’ TV content as well.

“It’s really hard to make any money on a TV show of any kind, so people who create sitcoms or drama series have the same rights as any [filmmaker] to protect their product,” said Kori Bernards, a spokeswoman for the MPAA. “What we have noticed is TV piracy is increasing. We want to fight piracy on all levels.”

The file-sharing networks rely on BitTorrent technology to distribute digitized copies of TV shows online.

Illegal downloading of TV shows has soared in the past 16 months, with a 368 percent increase from January 2004 to April 2005. Those numbers come from Big Champagne, an online measurement firm that tracks activity on peer-to-peer networks that share copies of TV shows on the Internet. The amount of content traded on peer-to-peer networks has increased 17 percent since February alone, according to the firm.

The six sites targeted by MPAA together facilitate the illegal swapping of copyrighted material to more than 100,000 people daily, according to MPAA.

Animated shows are popular because their file size is smaller. In April nearly 448,000 copies of “The Simpsons” could be found on popular file-sharing networks at any given time, said Eric Garland, CEO of Big Champagne. Mr. Garland described his company’s service as “similar to a Nielsen television audience measure.”

Next on the list of most-pirated shows was Fox’s “American Idol,” with about 446,000 active copies, followed by Fox’s “Family Guy” at 429,000. Also in the top 10 were ABC’s “Desperate Housewives,” Fox’s “The O.C.” and CBS’s “CSI.”