BitTorrent Loyalists Donate Cash To Fight MPAA

A call for financial support by the operator of a BitTorrent server that’sbeen targeted by the motion picture industry as a hub for pirated films hasachieved initial success.

Edward Webber, operator of Loki Torrent, posted a plea for money at his Website last week to fight a lawsuit slapped on his outfit by the MotionPicture Association of America (MPAA), which claims Webber’s site provideslinks to purloined movies through the BitTorrent peer-to-peer (P2P) filesharing network.

According to information posted at Webber’s site, he needs US$30,000 a monthto pay lawyers to defend Loki Torrent from the MPAA. As of this morning,Webber, who is collecting donations via PayPal, had exceeded his firstmonth’s goal for his defense fund, raising more than $33,000.

Landmark Case?

“Loki Torrent is fighting for your rights to freely share on the Internet,”Webber contends on his Web site.

“The MPAA is a large organization and this battle will not likely be easilywon, even knowing that we are in the right,” he continues. “They have deeppockets and many attorneys and we are not a large corporation. We are onesite taking the risk of standing up for everyone’s rights.”

“This is looking to be a landmark case concerning your rights on theInternet,” he adds, “and we need to be able to fight them through [to] victory.”

Expensive Litigation

Fred von Lohmann, who, as a staff attorney for the Electronic FrontierFoundation in San Francisco, knows a thing or two about trading briefs incourt with the likes of the MPAA and their music industry counterpart, theRecording Industry Association of America (RIAA), praised Loki Torrent’sefforts. “It’s a very impressive effort, and it speaks to the fact thatTorrent users have a very strong sense of community,” he told TechNewsWorld.

Nevertheless, Webber might be assuming a Sisyphean burden by going it aloneagainst the MPAA. “You have to realize just how expensive lawsuits are inour civil system,” von Lohmann observed. “Last time I checked, they hadraised $28,000. That wouldn’t be enough money to see you through even thepreliminary stages of a civil suit, much less all the way to trial.”

But the MPAA might not be looking to go to trial. It might angle to settle itscases out of court. Under those circumstances, it will be interesting to seethe size of the settlements sought by the organization, von Lohmann noted.”In the recording industry lawsuits, they obviously chose numbers that werelow enough that it really didn’t make any sense to fight,” he said.

“If theMPAA offered the guy at Loki Torrent a settlement number that was equal orless than the amount of money he’s raised so far, it might be very difficultfor him to decide to fight, knowing it would cost him more to defend himselfwhether he won or not.”

Not Looking for Settlement

Thus far, the MPAA hasn’t dangled any settlement terms in front of LokiTorrent, Webber told TechNewsWorld via e-mail. “The only settlement we seein the future is the MPAA dropping their case.”

Attempts to reach the MPAA by TechNewsWorld for comment were unavailing.

Although the most recent wave of lawsuits by the MPAA suggestsirreconcilable differences between the entertainment industry and the P2Pcommunity, there are those who believe the groups will find mutuallybeneficial ground.

Big Bets on P2P

“It’s time for the entertainment companies to embrace the noninfringinguses of P2P,” Travis Kalanick, CEO of Red Swoosh, an online entertainmentcontent deliverer based in El Segundo, California, said.

“There is no need to make a particular kind of technology to be thevillain,” argued Kalanick, the former operator of Scour, a Napster-era filesharing network sued into oblivion in 2000 by the entertainment industry.

“If they [the entertainment industry] want infringement and piracy tosubside, the best thing that they can do is start to embrace thenoninfringing uses of the technology,” he said.

“What you will see in 2005,” he predicted, “is that the big technologycompanies are going to make huge bets on P2P because everybody gets it now.They understand the power of P2P and what that means for a very low cost,very broad selection, on-demand media experience.”

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