MPAA Takes Down Torrent P2P Site

The movie industry won a court ruling against movie and TV show download service this week, shuttering the site almost immediately after a U.S. District Court in Dallas sided with the industry and declared the site could be taken down.

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) also moved to scare some users, posting a message on the shut-down LokiTorrent that read, “You can click, but you can’t hide.”

LokiTorrent used BitTorrent technology to break digital files such as movies into smaller pieces or “torrents” that are easier to download and share. It was likely targeted by the movie industry because of its prominence and its central server system.

Experts say, however, that other services, some of which may be decentralized, will continue to emerge, and that the earlier case of music file sharing has proven that crackdowns on the services, and even the users, is largely ineffective.

Show Musn’t Go On

The MPAA had argued that LokiTorrent was a platform for piracy, declaring that the illegal downloading “robs thousands of honest, hard-working people of their livelihood, and stifles creativity.” Users had been able to use the site to download feature films and television shows, among many other types of content.

“Illegally downloading movies from sites such as these without proper authorization violates the law, is theft, and is not anonymous,” the MPAA said.

The association also won access to the LokiTorrent server logs and indicated its intention to use them to find users.

“Stealing movies leaves a trail,” said the MPAA notice. “The only way not to get caught is to stop.”

Napster II?

Yankee Group senior analyst Mike Goodman told TechNewsWorld the case of LokiTorrent resembled the battle over the original Napster. That service was pursued and eventually dismantled by the recording industry, but it also helped create a P2P revolution that now defines how many Internet users prefer to consume their media.

“Once again, the content industry is fighting yesterday’s battle,” Goodman said of the MPAA’s shutdown of LokiTorrent. “It’s Napster part two.”

Goodman said that there are already more advanced, more decentralized BitTorrent variations emerging.

The music industry’s pursuit of P2P operators and users, which has included thousands of lawsuits against individual users accused of unlicensed file sharing, has proven ineffective, he said.

“P2P downloads nearly doubled in 2004 from 2003,” Goodman said. “That’s just looking at the basic numbers.”

Legitimacy and Piracy

Goodman also argued that there are a number of companies using BitTorrent technology in a way that does not violate the law, including game companies that use the distribution model to reach users with authorized content.

“Companies are making legitimate use of BitTorrent in a way that Napster never was [used],” he said.

It is hard to make a connection between lost music or movie revenue and illegal downloads, Goodman said. Meanwhile, there are far more detrimental sources of piracy.

“The real piracy and the real money loss still occurs [from] people who are duplicating and selling DVDs,” he said, estimating that all of the losses from unlicensed Internet file sharing would equal about 5 percent of the illegal DVD market in Asia.

Business Problem

Gartner G2 analyst Mike McGuire told TechNewsWorld that despite the MPAA victory over LokiTorrent, the torrent technology is likely to continue to grow and evolve.

Although content owners such as the MPAA and recording industry are understandably trying to stem losses to free Internet downloads, he said, the industries are missing the opportunity of a new distribution channel and new business model that delivers what consumers want: freedom and flexibility with their music and movies.

“That’s not necessarily a recipe for anarchy,” McGuire said. “It can be a potentially powerful tool. It’s not a technical challenge, it’s a business model challenge.”

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