HOLLYWOOD HAS joined the music industry in its court battle to stamp out piracy and illegal bartering of their products on the internet. The major film studios this week abruptly stepped into the fray by suing a website that allows users to exchange entire films online.
The studios are asking the courts to shut down a little known website called Scour.com. If movie buffs can't be bothered going to the cinema to catch Mel Gibson in The Patriot or George Clooney in The Perfect Storm, but don't fancy waiting for the videos, they can just power up their PCs and find them there.
Just as music lovers have been trading music online for months - most commonly via a site called Napster - film fans are finding the same can be done with movies. This is not confined to old releases - Gladiator or Mission: Impossible 2 may also be available.
The prospect is a nightmare for Hollywood. While the record labels have already been forced to confront the copyright implications of music exchange via the Web, the studios assumed they were immune, for a while at least, because cyber-technology did not allow individuals to download the huge files needed for films.
But the "napsterisation" of film is happening and the movie moguls are starting to panic. With technology being dubbed DivX, websites are appearing that allow users to downloadfilm trailers and, in some cases, entire features on to ordinary CDs in their PCs. DivX is revolutionary because it compresses films to such an extent that downloading is fairly quick.
Hollywood is realising that unless it moves fast, it could quickly lose control of its product to cyber-pirating. In the first shot of a war that is likely to intensify, all the large studios, in alliance with industry associations and the music labels, this week filed suit againstScour, asking the courts to shut the site down. …