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As TorrentSpy continues to fight a lawsuit by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), founders of the popular video download site have announced a new filtering system that allows content owners to remove pirated material from the site’s search results.

The new filtering system, known as FileRights, automatically removes offending search links using a database of copyrighted works, CNET reports. Though the database is maintained by FileRights, the onus is on the content owners to keep it updated. Video search engine isoHunt, a TorrentSpy competitor, will also use the system.

”No longer will site by site DMCA affidavits be required for copyright owners to remove links to allegedly infringing files,” reads a statement from Justin Bunnell, a TorrentSpy founder and chief executive officer of FileRights. “ With FileRights, we used the community networking power of the web to automate and aggregate the entire copyright filtration process."

The MPAA filed suit against TorrentSpy in February of 2006, accusing the BitTorrent-based site of facilitating downloads of copyrighted material. The introduction of FileRights comes in the wake of a federal court ruling that ordered TorrentSpy to begin tracking its own users as a way of collecting evidence in the suit.

The court has since issued a stay of the order, and TorrentSpy plans to appeal. Yesterday, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a privacy watchdog, filed an amicus brief with the court in support of the company.

According to the FileRights site, the new filtering service gives content owners the ability to upload “hash marks” that identify copyrighted works. The hashes are then used to automatically remove links to pirated material from video sites like TorrentSpy and isoHunt. It should be noted, however, that video files can be altered to avoid identification by hash marks.

The hope is that the filtering service will win TorrentSpy a few points with the court. But, considering that content owners must update the FileRights database and that the hash set-up is less-than-foolproof, it may not have much effect.

"It is difficult to evaluate from press reports if the filter is going to be effective or if it is merely a cosmetic gesture," says Ian Ballon, a California intellectual property lawyer and the author of Ecommerce and Internet Law: Treatise With Forms.

Napster tried a similar trick as it battled a lawsuit from the Recording Industry Association of American (RIAA), but the service was shut down by the courts until it could prove that it had removed all copyrighted material.®

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