Having successfully forced file-sharing rogue Napster Inc. into compliance with copyright laws, the Recording Industry Association of America Inc. (RIAA), along with the major Hollywood studios, is now launching attacks against popular file-swapping services MusicCity, KaZaA, Morpheus and Grokster, an RIAA representative confirmed Wednesday.
"We cannot sit idly by while these services continue to operate illegally, especially at a time when new legitimate services are being launched," Hilary Rosen, RIAA president and chief executive officer (CEO) said in a statement.
The RIAA and Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) filed suit against MusicCity.com Inc, MusicCity Networks Inc. (which operates Morpheus), Grokster Ltd., and Consumer Empowerment BV (also known as FastTrack, operator of the KaZaA service) in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California late Tuesday for copyright infringement.
None of the defendants were immediately available for comment Wednesday.
Like Napster, the services covered in the suit allowed users to swap content, including copyright-protected music and movies, for free via their networks.
In their suit, the plaintiffs said that the file-sharing networks "created a 21st century pirated bazaar where the unlawful exchange of protected materials takes place across the vast expanses of the Internet, and where the materials being exchanged include first-run movies currently playing in theaters and hit songs from virtually every major recording artist."
All of the peer-to-peer (P-to-P) networks charged in the suit utilize software from Amsterdam-based FastTrack, which is made up of a loose organization of programmers. FastTrack Founder and CEO Niklas Zennström manages the KaZaA service, and the company licensed its file-swapping software to Tennessee-based MusicCity, and West Indies-based Grokster.
Although each service boasts a different user interface, the file-sharing software that powers them is virtually identical, and connects all users to the same network library, the plaintiffs said. Given this, the plaintiffs claim that not only are the services aware that they are enabling the sharing of copyright works, but are also able "to control the activities of their users and the infringing digital files available through their network," the suit states. This is important because in order for the defendants to be found guilty, they must be proven to have both knowledge of and control over the illegal activities.
The RIAA has already battled other file-sharing services, such as Napster, on similar grounds, but Tuesday's suit represents the first time the record industry has teamed with the MPAA to present a unified front. (Napster has been offline since July when a court ordered it to suspend its services until it could prove that its filters were 100 percent effective in weeding out copyright works.)