Film88 Owner Fined $24 Million

from the seems-a-bit-extreme... dept

Two years ago, a site popped up in Taiwan called Movie88, that let people stream movies for $1. The site became somewhat popular, which, of course, forced the MPAA to step in. With a little help from friends in the US government, pressure was put in the right places and the Taiwanese hosting company pulled the site off the internet. It didn't take long for the site to reappear, this time as Film88, and claiming to be based in Iran, where US government pressure and laws were unlikely to be followed. The problem, though, is that the Iranian internet infrastructure wasn't quite up to the task, so the site was actually hosted in the Netherlands... where US pressure could be exerted, and the site was quickly shut down again. Soon after this, the movie industry sued the guy who ran both sites. It only took two years, but a California judge has found him guilty and ordered him to pay $23.8 million to the movie industry. Now, clearly, the guy was taking unauthorized files and streaming them online for profit. However, the punishment still seems a bit extreme. Streaming movies over the web is nothing like watching them in a theater or even on a DVD. It's unlikely that the industry actually lost very much money (let alone $24 million) from this guy. In fact, you could make the case that it may have helped increase revenue by convincing people that certain movies were worth buying on DVD or seeing in a theater. The popularity of the site showed that there was demand that the industry wasn't meeting. If the industry was smart, they would have looked for a way to offer something similar -- inexpensive, easy to use, movie streaming. Instead, they get their $24 million and millions of movie watchers don't get what they want.


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(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    gary, Nov 24th, 2004 @ 11:22am

    film88

    Being awarding a judgement doesnt mean any money will change hands. If you cant get to the guy, you cant get the money.
    I wonder how many movies were downloaded, even if your purchased all the DVD's that still 1.2 million DVD's

     

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  2.  
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    RJD, Nov 24th, 2004 @ 11:47am

    -- a little pregnant --

    Guilty is guilty. If some one shoplifts inexpensive items, does that make them less guilty ? If someone breaks into a home and steals cheap items, does that make them less guilty ?

    As the previous post indicated, the judgement and actual money to exchange hands is seldom the same thing. Nonetheless, the judge/jury found in favor of the plantiff.

    I do agree that the streaming would probably help sales instead of hurting them due to streamings poor quality. But this would also assume that the movie was of any real interest to begin with.

    But the judgement isn't about business practices and how to make them better. It's about mis-use of copyrighted material. Period.

     

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  3.  
    identicon
    Bill, Nov 24th, 2004 @ 1:25pm

    It's still wrong

    First, if the guy simply got caught and went away I might be able to cut him some slack but when he goes and sets up the same illegal operation elsewhere . . . no, $24 million isn't excessive. Ok, so you want to swap a few movies with other individuals for personal use, techncially illegal but I'm not gonna want the guy punished. Ok, so you swap some songs on Napster/Kazaa/eDonkey/whatever, most of the RIAA lawsuits were excessive. But when you set up a business with the intent of stealing one guy's property and reselling it to others . . . uh, that's a problem. I don't care if he made $24 million or caused that much in damage to the movie studios. How would you like it if I took TechDirt and started offering it as a paid service on my site? I just come here every day and download all of your content and then re-sell it on my site? I'm pretty sure you would be piss raving mad and demand that I stop.

     

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  4.  
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    Mike (profile), Nov 24th, 2004 @ 2:00pm

    Re: It's still wrong

    No, actually, as I've said in the past, if you can do that, more power to you.

    It's just that most people will quickly figure out that I'm offering it for free, and you won't have a business very long.

    But, go ahead, and try. If you can do it, good for you.

     

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  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 27th, 2004 @ 1:39pm

    No Subject Given

    This guy is simply being made an example of.

    I guess a "fair" sum, would have been the average cost of a DVD or cinema ticket multiplied by the number of downloads.

    Although even then it could be said that people would watch a movie for $1, but wouldn't have bothered for $10-20 (yeah I went to the cinema last night and it cost $10, I shall not be bothering again until SW Ep3 comes out, and that may be my last ever cinema visit).

    Then there's the arguments of how many people were watching that one stream, how many then bought the DVD when it came out, or recommended it to friends who subsequently went to see it at the cinema....

    It's all swings and roundabouts, and no fair sum can easily be calculated, but 24m is not a fair sum be any stretch of the imagination.

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    Steve Mueller, Nov 28th, 2004 @ 6:12pm

    Re: It's still wrong

    No, actually, as I've said in the past, if you can do that, more power to you.

    It's just that most people will quickly figure out that I'm offering it for free, and you won't have a business very long.


    OK, how about if somebody subscribed to your paid content and then sold it for less? That's more analogous to what the Film88 low-life was doing.

     

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  7.  
    identicon
    Steve Mueller, Nov 28th, 2004 @ 6:17pm

    Re: -- a little pregnant --

    It's good to see that somebody gets it. Even if the argument that Film88 helped the movie industry is true, that's not somebody else's decision to make. The film industry gets to run their business any way they want, for better or worse, as long as it's legal.

    If the Film88 guy actually cared about helping the film industry, he could have offered his services as a consultant to help them set up a streaming service.

     

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  8.  
    identicon
    Steve Mueller, Nov 28th, 2004 @ 6:26pm

    Damages

    It's unlikely that the industry actually lost very much money (let alone $24 million) from this guy...
    How much they lost is often irrelevant. There are statutory damages that can be invoked, which (as our friends in the RIAA and MPAA have made clear) can range up to $150,000 per violation if the conduct was willful (which it seems obvious it was). At $150,000 per stream, it only takes 159 streams to get to $23.8 million. I bet he streamed more than 159 movies.

    For more information, read GigaLaw to find out why this can happen.

     

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  9.  
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    Mike (profile), Nov 29th, 2004 @ 9:01am

    Re: Damages

    Yeah, I understand all of that. My point was that the damages seem well out of proportion to the "crime" and it's something that should be changed. I understand what the law is, and how it works, but unfair punishment seems like something people should be arguing against.

     

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