The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) has filed a lawsuit against the Hotfile file hosting service, charging that it encourages the illegal sharing of copyrighted movies and television shows.
On behalf of U.S. movie studios, the MPAA filed the civil lawsuit against Hotfile and its operator, Anton Titov, in U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Florida, for damages and injunctive relief for violations under the United States Copyright Act of 1976. Hotfile is based in Panama City, Panama.
In a press statement, the MPAA maintains that Hotfile differs from legitimate Internet file-hosting services in that it "encourages and incentivizes users to upload files containing illegal copies of motion pictures and TV shows to its servers."
Frequent users are charged a monthly fee to download material, and the company rewards users who upload the most popular material, the MPAA charges.
A review of the Hotfile website finds that, in addition to a free data hosting service, it offers a number of subscription plans, starting at US$9 per month, aimed at speeding the download process for users. It also offers an affiliate plan that pays out dividends in $15 increments, based on the amount of the participant's material that is downloaded by others. It does not offer any search functionality for finding files on the site, so all sharing of files is done on a peer-to-peer basis.
Amazon-owned Web metrics company Alexa ranks Hotfile as the 57th-most-popular website on the Internet.
"Every day Hotfile is responsible for the theft of thousands of MPAA member companies' movies and TV shows - including movies still playing in theaters," said Daniel Mandil, MPAA general counsel and chief content protection officer, in a statement.
Hotfile did not immediately respond to a request for comment. It does provide a page for copyright owners to register a complaint of copyright infringement. There, the company claims to follow the procedures for removing copyright-infringing material as set forth by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.