Film site halts service pending lawsuit

Online film distributor Intertainer says it will close its service next week, citing litigation with the motion picture industry. Defendants include AOL and Sony.

Online film distributor Intertainer said Thursday it will close its service next week, citing litigation with the motion picture industry.

"As many of you already know, on September 24th we filed a federal anti-trust suit against AOL Time Warner, Sony, Universal and Movielink," wrote Intertainer CEO Jonathan Taplin in an e-mail to site members.

"On October 23rd we plan to take the site down until we can work out a fair business model with the defendants, who control more than 50 percent of the theatrical motion picture business and more than 60 percent of the music business."

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, charged the entertainment giants as conspirators that have been hindering Intertainer's business of offering movies on demand. The suit also alleges that the studios engaged in a "group boycott" of licensing their movies to Intertainer to buy time in launching their rival Movielink joint venture.

A representative from Movielink did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

Taplin said that the service, which offers a library of popular and independent films, documentaries and TV programming, will resume when fair competition in the online industry is restored. Taplin also urged Intertainer's nearly 150,000 broadband subscribers to write the Michael Powell, chairman of the Federal Communications Commision, or to Attorney General John Ashcroft at the Department of Justice to complain about the stranglehold of the movie studios on the industry.

"We promise to return when there is an environment in which the independent company such as ours is allowed to compete for your business," he said. "Whether the current environment of increasing media concentration is good for our Democracy is of course, the ultimate question."

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