Ratcheting up its, the Hollywood group is working with law enforcement agencies in the United States and Europe to target and arrest individuals who play a critical role in the functioning of each type of network.
Criminal actions have already been filed in Europe, including the seizure of seven Net-connected servers, with their operator still wanted by French police, a representative of the French government said.
The MPAA is working with law enforcement agencies in the United States and Europe to target and arrest individuals who play a critical role in the functioning of BitTorrent and eDonkey.
The legal actions mark a strong new attack on peer-to-peer networks, which have continued to thrive over the past several years despite lawsuits against software developers and individuals.
"These people are parasites, leeching off the creative activity of others," said John Malcolm, the MPAA's director of worldwide antipiracy operations. They "serve as traffic cops connecting those who want to steal movies with those who have a copy and want to provide it."
The cross-border legal actions mark a strong new attack on peer-to-peer networks, which have continued to thrive over the past several years despite lawsuits against software developers and nearly 7,000 individuals accused of trading copyrighted music online.
BitTorrent and eDonkey each have grown rapidly over the past two years, threatening to become to the movie industry what Napster initially was to the record labels. Each technology is designed specifically to speed downloads of very large files, and has been used widely to distribute full-length movies, computer games and software.
BitTorrent in particular has become a recent concern for Hollywood companies desperate to stop video piracy before it cuts into their soaring DVD sales revenues. The threat of potential criminal penalties substantially raises the stakes for those helping to distribute a film using the technology, in what the studios hope will be a more effective deterrence than previous actions.
According to Net monitoring firm BayTSP, eDonkey recently passed up Kazaa as the most popular file-swapping network in the world, measured by number of users. Other network monitors have said that BitTorrent has long been the most popular measured by the amount of data transferred between users.
Who's being sued?
Understanding exactly who has been targeted in the latest peer-to-peer dragnet requires a little understanding of how each network works, however.
In the early days of Napster, a central server operated by that company kept a huge index of all content available on the network and where it was located, matching downloaders with people who had a particular piece of content. The recording industry was able to successfully sue Napster after judges said that a centrally operated index made the company legally responsible for piracy on the network.
Record labels and movie studios then sued a second generation of file-swapping companies, which offered decentralized services in which the