Disney, Warner Bros. sue to stop advertising on pirate websites

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Disney, Warner Bros. sue to stop advertising on pirate websites

Thu Aug 26, 2010 @ 09:11AM PST

By Eriq Gardner

PiracyPicture EXCLUSIVE: Warner Bros. and the Walt Disney Co. have teamed up in a new legal effort to choke off the air supply of various websites that post and index links to pirated movies.

The two studios are suing Triton Media, alleged to have provided advertising consulting and referrals for nine websites identified as "one-stop-shops" for infringing works.

Warners and Disney claim that Triton committed contributory copyright infringement and induced copyright infringement via their advertising assistance. The lawsuit indicates that Hollywood may be on the verge of expanding its hit-list of targets in the ongoing war against piracy.

The complaint was filed on Tuesday in U.S. District Court in California and is rather thin on specific details of Triton's services to these websites. 

Instead, it largely focuses on the misdeeds of the sites. The two studios identify www.free-tv-video-online.info, supernovatube.com, donogo.com, watch-movies.net, watch-movies-online.tv, watch-movies-links.net, havenvideo.com and piratecity.org as providing users access to content that has been unlawfully reproduced. The websites are said to either host infringing content themselves or link to other third-party websites that have infringing content. 

All of these websites could themselves be liable for a contributory infringement claim, but the studios have instead decided to reach out even further by taking action against a larger business in Triton. 

Triton allegedly enables these websites to operate and has actual knowledge that the sites are participating in copyright infringement.

The two studios aren't the first to attempt to crack down on piracy by targeting so-called facilitators. Adult entertainment publisher Perfect 10 sued Mastercard and Visa in 2004, alleging the two credit card companies provided "crucial transactional support services" to pirate websites. A district court dismissed the case, and later the Ninth Circuit upheld it, determining that Perfect 10 had failed to support any theory of liability against the defendants.

Some legal observers have argued that Perfect 10 wasn't the "perfect plaintiff" to bring the case. It appears that Warners and Disney, represented by the anti-piracy experts at Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp, want to take a shot at being the very plaintiff that might expand the definition of contributory copyright infringement. 

The studios are seeking unspecified monetary damages as well as an injunction that would prevent Triton from doing business with these websites.

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The Hollywood Reporter, Esq. blog focuses on how the entertainment and media industries are impacted and influenced by the law. It is edited by Matthew Belloni with contributions from veteran legal reporter Eriq Gardner and others. Before joining The Hollywood Reporter, Belloni was a lawyer at an entertainment litigation firm in Los Angeles. He writes a column for THR devoted to entertainment law. Gardner is a New York-based writer and legal journalist. Send tips or comments to Matthew.Belloni@thr.com

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