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Online Movie Site Closed Down

June 07, 2002|JON HEALEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Dutch authorities Thursday took down Film88.com, a renegade online movie site, by persuading an Internet provider in Holland to pull the plug on the company's digital film library.

Film88.com offered viewers an online movie theater showing hit films on demand for $1, but it did so without paying or obtaining permission from the studios. Although the company said it operated out of Iran, which doesn't recognize foreign copyrights, its computerized film library was housed in Holland, said Tim Kuik, managing director of BREIN, a Dutch anti-piracy foundation.

The founders of Film88.com had tried a similar venture, Movie88.com, using computers located in Taiwan. But authorities in that country shut down the service and seized its computers in February in response to complaints from the studios.

The latest venture had an even shorter run. The site's operators announced their arrival on Tuesday, and within two days Film88.com was offline.

The action demonstrates how quickly Hollywood can respond to piracy in countries that support international copyright treaties. Although the enforcement mechanisms vary from country to country, many nations require Internet providers to cut off infringing customers or risk being held liable themselves.

Kuik said his group acted in response to a request by the Motion Picture Assn., the international trade group representing the major Hollywood studios. Although the Film88 Web address is based in Iran, it apparently used a Dutch Internet provider, TrueServer, to store its movies and provide the large amount of bandwidth needed to display movies in near-VHS quality.

"The MPA understands that Internet piracy is a global phenomenon," said Mark Litvack, the association's director of legal affairs and worldwide anti-piracy efforts. "Both in terms of our investigative and our legal facilities, we are prepared ... to deal with it on a global scope."

The investigations into Film88.com and Movie88.com are continuing. On its Web site, Film88.com said only that it was facing a "technical proxy/caching problem" and promised to be back online as soon as possible.

If it does come back, Litvack said, the MPA will act again.

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