Music industry seeks swift ruling against P-to-P sites

Apparently tired of legal dillydallying, groups representing the music and motion picture industries filed a motion to a federal court requesting a swift ruling against peer-to-peer (P-to-P) file swapping services Kazaa, Morpheus and Grokster Monday, calling their networks "candy stores of infringement."

The motion was filed by the Recording Industry Association of America Inc. (RIAA), the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the National Music Publishers Association (NMPA) in a Los Angeles federal court, following months of drawn out litigation against the P-to-P services.

The music and motion picture industries initially sued the services last October, claiming that they knowingly allow users to pirate their copyright-protected works. The groups took the same stand against Napster Inc. and succeeded in getting a court to permanently knock the file swapping site offline. Their case against the new generation of P-to-P networks has hit a snag, however, in that the services claim that, unlike Napster, they have no central servers and cannot control what their users do.

However, the groups released a statement on the motion saying that the services control the networks "in a way that could easily prevent copyright infringement from occurring." They cite an instance earlier this year when Kazaa turned off fellow P-to-P service Morpheus.

Furthermore, the groups allege that the services designed their businesses to exploit the value of their copyright works.

"This is Cybernetic shoplifting. The defendants have used the Internet to enrich themselves and deprive creators and copyright holders of their right to be compensated for their works, thereby perpetuating the mentality that stealing is an acceptable form of behavior," said Mark Litvack, MPAA Vice President and Director of Legal Affairs in a statement released this week.

On the same day the industry groups requested a speedy ruling against the P-to-P networks, Morpheus petitioned the court for a summary judgment declaring its legality. Morpheus contends that its software has substantial non-infringing uses and should be protected.

It remains to be seen how the duelling motions fare, as the court weighs the case in following weeks.

The music and motion picture groups said that their brief has been sealed, in response to confidential evidence submitted by the defendants, so no further details were available.

None of the P-to-P services named in the case were immediately available for comment Tuesday.

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Scarlet Pruitt

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