Roll credits on Film88.com
Movie-streaming site raised ire of industry
(CNN) -- A court order obtained by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) has shut down the latest incarnation of a contentious Web site that offered streaming movies over the Internet for just $1.
In mid-February, a site called Movie88.com based in Taiwan began allowing people to stream popular movies to their computer. The films could not be downloaded or saved to a hard drive, but were instead offered as rentals, viewable for a period of a few days for the $1 or $1.50 fee.
But a combination of efforts from the Taiwanese authorities and the United States movie industry shut it down after only a few days.
Now, history has rewound and played itself out from the opening credits to the closing curtain.
Early last week, the controversial service reappeared with a new name (Film88.com) and a similar look. The movies on the site included box office draws like "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," "Ocean's Eleven" and "The Scorpion King."
The operators of Film88.com said they were employing some staff and ideas from Movie88.com, but said they had shifted operations from Taiwan to Iran.
The operators of Film88.com reportedly said they chose Iran has a haven from U.S. copyright laws, a tactic that analysts believe is happening on a more frequent basis.
A check of the domain name registry confirmed that Film88.com was registered in Tehran, Iran to Hali Hami. Several calls and e-mails to Film88.com were not returned.
However, although the site was registered in Iran, the MPAA was able to determine through computer forensics that the servers were actually housed at an Internet service provider (ISP) in the Netherlands. ISPs in the Netherlands recognize international intellectual-property laws.
Mark Litvack, director of legal affairs and worldwide anti-piracy for the MPAA, said Film88.com will be shut down no matter what it's called or where it attempts to do business.
"Our job is to prevent the piracy of our members' works, especially when it's being used for commercial advantage," said Litvack. "It [Film88.com] was a blatant and brazen act of piracy."
A posting on the Film88.com Web site Monday morning said the operators of the site had offered to pay 30 percent of their rental price to the Hollywood studios.
But Litvack scoffed at that idea.
"After somebody steals the bread, I don't think they have the right to call and ask a price for it," he said.
Litvack was not aware if any arrests had been made.
Litvack added that the Dutch ISP fully cooperated with the court order, which was obtained by the MPAA on Friday.
The availability of Film88.com was spotty over the course of last week as its operators attempted to circumvent certain technological restrictions, but now contains simply a text message.
"We have made clear many times that we are not pirates," the statement reads. "We have stated clearly that we are not involved in politics (Iran or elsewhere). What happen to the fundamental concept of Internet of being borderless and not knowing any nationality and race? We wish to apologize to all users, Geeks, our service providers and Hollywood, and hope that they will accept our apology for inconvenience caused, if any."
It also appears that the operators encountered some problems with their technical infrastructure, saying they were reviewing some of the results after a "trial run."
Future of TV comes into focus at broadcast show
April 27, 2001
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