Surprise: MPAA Told It Can't Use Terms 'Piracy,' 'Theft' Or 'Stealing' During Hotfile Trial

from the a-bit-of-good-news dept

I knew that Hotfile had been pushing for this, but I’m somewhat happily surprised to see Judge Kathleen Williams of the US district court in Southern Florida grant Hotfile’s motion to bar the MPAA from using “pejorative terms” in its copyright infringement case against the company. Among the words that the movie studios cannot use in describing Hotfile’s activity: “piracy,” “theft” and “stealing.” We’ve been pointing out for many years how the industry has been using these kinds of misleading terms to influence pretty much everyone to their side, even though the terms are not even remotely accurate. Hotfile had reasonably argued that such terms could negatively influence the jury:

In the present case, there is no evidence that the Defendants (or Hotfile’s founders) are ‘pirates’ or ‘thieves,’ nor is there evidence that they were ‘stealing’ or engaged in ‘piracy’ or ‘theft.’ Even if the Defendants had been found to have directly infringed on the Plaintiffs’ copyrights, such derogatory terms would add nothing to the Plaintiffs’ case, but would serve to improperly inflame the jury.

The MPAA tried to argue that these were commonly used, but apparently the judge realized that using these misleading words really would be unfair. Hopefully other courts follow suit.

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Companies: hotfile, mpaa

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Comments on “Surprise: MPAA Told It Can't Use Terms 'Piracy,' 'Theft' Or 'Stealing' During Hotfile Trial”

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That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: Fall back strategy

They show proof all of the time, it is a matter of deconstructing that proof in which we find Grocery Baggers included in the workforce to plump up numbers.

They often show lost sales by ignoring large sections of income as they keep playing games with words about licensing vs sales.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Fall back strategy

That’s my point, in a sense. We hear these things being claimed all the time, but few studies actually back the claim up. Those that do appear to do so, as noted by TAC above, often rely on flimsy evidence or exaggerations, or just misrepresentations of what’s actually concluded.

Surely, it’s not too much to ask that they should prove their most basic claim before they’re able to take further negative actions that damage both the public and other companies alike. I’m not holding my breath, but it would be nice.

anonymouse says:


Next they will allow those being sued to show that even though there is more sharing of content(see what i did there) than at any other time in history they are still making record profits at the boxoffice. This will prove once and for all that sharing content for personal use is not doing one thing to harm the Content creators.

And when they come up with how dvd sales have dropped explain to them how that was an income stream they fought against for years and that if they only took advantage of the huge infrastructure of the internet they could convert those lost sales to actual sales. Nowhere on the internet is there a website where i can buy every movie ever created and that is where places like thepiratebay fill a gap that the industry refuses to fill, they do not want people to have access to older content…

Anonymous Coward says:

dont forget who started using these terms, and why. it was done entirely to portray people as being the scum of the earth, even though this and every other business relies totally on them! if these fuckers can compare the copying of a movie that a person owns, to the true act of piracy, such as the invading of the Maersk Alabama, the capturing of and financial demands made for the safe return of the crew and the cargo of that ship, i’d be interested to learn how that comparison is made! the industries may well think that copying a movie is worth the total annihilation of a person, his finances and ultimately, in all probability, his life, i’m damned if i do!! and the politicians that have allowed the continuation of this and other terms that completely condone the disgraceful actions of an industry, the justification of the harm done to people, so as to get a name for themselves and introduce totally discriminate and unjust sentences for a natural human activity, should be the ones that face a court!

ECA (profile) says:


Proper use would make..
“Improper USE of product/material”

the Word piracy is improper in the first place. IT was a derogatory and mis-used word.
Their were Very few Pirates by any understanding. MOSt were hired Raiders.
Thief, means you GAINEd something..which may be hard to prove.
And stealing is also fun.. try showing that the Claimant didnt GAIN for the loss.

MPAA says:

Preview of MPAA's next filing

Hotfile is group of people similar to those guys with swords and cannons who sail the high seas looking for booty to bury in a treasure chests. They are like those guys who use weapons to encourage people to give them things in shadowy alleys at night. What they did is the same as those people who smash windows in an effort to retrieve items of intrinsic value without compensating the owners for said items…..

Beta (profile) says:

we dare you

I have mixed feelings about this.

Yes, the MPAA is making statements that are outright false, but I don’t like the idea that the court is forbidding the use of certain words. If they want to claim that there was theft, let them make the claim. If the defendants disagree, they can object and rebut. If the judge finds the terms inappropriate, she can sustain the objection and give the plaintiffs a good dressing-down in front of the jury for making false claims. Repeat as necessary.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: we dare you

That is exactly what this is though, a sustained objection, handled preemptively. The point of an making an objection is to have stricken from the record unfair questions and comments that were not supposed to be made in the first place. The problem with objections is that although it’s stricken from the record and the jury isn’t supposed to consider it in deliberation, the jury still hears it. This way the jury doesn’t without getting in trouble for directly violating the court’s order.

What’s also good about this is that this is as part of this case, this should set a legal precedent that may be able to be used in other cases.

Anonymous Coward says:

How quickly people forget that in August of this year the court rendered an opinion granting summary judgment to the plaintiff’s that Hotfile had engaged in unlawful activity under our copyright laws. The case now moves before a jury to render a verdict on damages due to the plaintiffs. Since the summary judgment award was premised on secondary liability, these so-called pejorative terms do not come into play since they do not relate, even as used by lay persons, to the essential elements of Hotfile’s acts that led to the award against it and its principal.

IOW, you cannot call them pirates, but you can certainly use any and all “legal terms of art” that convey virtually the same meaning as is commonly understood within the lay community.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Right. There’s an important distinction that Mike is overlooking. Their liability was vicarious, meaning, it was imputed to them via their relationship with the direct infringers. We wouldn’t call a boss a “manslaughterer” even if he is vicariously liable for the manslaughter caused by his agent. Sorry, but this isn’t the huge victory the copy-haters think it is. They are still liable for the thefts, though they are not thieves themselves.

Beta (profile) says:

how to ruin an illusion

My favorite line:

Banning the terms would make it hard for MPAA?s lawyers and the witnesses to describe the events that took place, according to the movie studios.

By which they mean that it would make it hard for them to describe the events that didn’t take place, at least not without consciously realizing that they were committing perjury. This reminds me of Lee Siegel’s utterly beautiful statement about magic:

Real magic, in other words, is the magic that is not real, while magic that is real, that can actually be done, is not real magic.

RD says:

Ok then, they dont get to use terms like "sale"

Ok, then, if they want it that way, then they also don’t get to use terms like “own it now!” or “on sale now!” to try to get people to purchase their own copy, just to turn around and claim “oh, you don’t OWN it, its a LICENSE!” and attempt to illegally restrict what you can do with it post-first-sale.

Anonymous Coward says:

The problem with the concept of "Property"

Calling works “intellectual property” has problems similar to those involved in calling human beings “Property.” It Takes a Village to enforce such ideas, it involves censorship, and the penalties are extremely high:

Code of Virginia 1849, Title 54, Crimes and Punishments, Chapter 198, Of Offenses Against Public Policy, Section 22.

If a free person, by speaking or writing, maintain that owners have not right of property in their slaves, he shall be confined in jail not more than one year, and fined not exceeding five hundred dollars. He may be arrested, and carried before a justice, by any white person.

randy par? says:

piracy is theft

To those who gleefully download the work of others, without permission or compensation & assist many more in doing the same:

If I write a novel and someone pirates it and shares it with millions, without my permission or compensation, should I, in your opinion, have any recourse or be able to seek any redress?

Or, should being a novelist just be considered a hobby?

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