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Motion Picture Ass. launches Gnutella offensive

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The Motion Picture Association Of America has begun targeting Gnutella users, having successfully seen off Scour. The Ass. has started contacting US ISPs and university network administrators to warn them that some of their users are illegally sharing copyright movie material.

And in response to such pressure from the MPAA, Excite@Home, for one, has begun emailing users demanding they cease their alleged copyright infringing actions on pain of being disconnected. Says the email:

"We have received a complaint from [the MPAA] that you are distributing copyrighted material via Gnutella using your @Home Network services. We are requesting that you immediately remove any files which you are distributing in violation of copyright and cease this activity within 24 hours.

"This behaviour is in violation of the @Home Acceptable Use Policy and continuation of this activity will result in termination of your @Home services."

The Excite@Home emails provide lists of what movies were shared and when they were offered to other Gnutella users. That information will have come from the MPAA, which must be using snooping software to monitor sharing activity between Gnutella users. In this case, it appears to have used a third-party to do the tracking.

The MPAA's move mirrors similar warnings sent out to US universities last summer by Metallica. The band alleged that its songs were being shared illegally via the Napster network, and demanded that Napster be banned. Unlike Metallica, the MPAA does not appear to be backing up its requests with legal action.

It would be on a sticky wicket if it did. The Ass. cites the Digital Millennium Copyright Act as the law alleged movie sharers are infringing. What it doesn't appear to have pointed out is that the DMCA states that ISPs are not liable for the actions of their users.

"What we're trying to do is educate the population about what is appropriate, both from an ethical standpoint and from a legal standpoint," said Ken Jacobson, the MPAA's anti-piracy chief. ®

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