Stock picture of an illegal downloading pirate
The Motion Picture Association of America is now trying to prove that all third parties involved with the piracy site they want to block are implicit in copyright infringement too iStock

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), which represents the six major Hollywood film studios, is trying to make online piracy everybody's problem by filing a civil lawsuit directed at piracy site MovieTube banner, and also broadly listing all the third parties that are involved with servicing the site. The notoriously litigious trade association is targeting everything from domain registrars to internet service providers (ISPs), and even content delivery and advertising networks.

The complaint against MovieTube filed by the MPAA covers "all persons and entities providing any services to or in connection with the domain names," and the complaint defines this as including (among others) digital advertising service providers, search-based online advertising services, content delivery networks, domain name registries, domain name server systems, and indexers. In other words, anyone who has a hand in the fundamental operating structure of the internet.

According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, if the complaint were accepted by the US courts, it would be much easier for bodies like the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) to quickly block access to piracy websites "with little or no court supervision, and with Internet service and infrastructure companies conscripted as enforcers".

In other words, in order to prevent being sued themselves, ISPs, web hosts and social media networks like Facebook could be forced to self-police and proactively block access to copyright-infringing content before they are blamed for being implicit in the offence too.

How pirated content is blocked today

Currently, the only way copyright owners can stop consumers from being able to access pirated content is by suing the site owners and demanding that courts order ISPs to directly block their internet subscribers from accessing piracy websites. Generally, ISPs are not keen to prevent illegal downloading unless expressly required to do so by their governments, as the more data a user consumes, the more they pay their provider.

In the UK, from May 2012 onwards, the five major ISPs have had to block a variety of online piracy websites such as The Pirate Bay, Kickass Torrents, EZTV and Torrentz, thanks to court orders requested by the MPAA and the British Phonographic Industry (BPI).

However, the communities that run these websites create numerous proxy websites, mirrors of the original website and multiple forwarding domains, making the fight to stop online piracy more like a whack-a-mole game.

So now Hollywood wants to make online piracy hurt as many parties as possible, especially since the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) bill, which would have made it easy to obtain court orders to block access to piracy sites failed to pass Congress in 2012 thanks to huge opposition from the tech industry and internet giants like Google and Facebook.

The EFF says that although SOPA wasn't passed into law, the MPAA and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) are now filing lawsuits that "pretend as if SOPA was actually signed into law", and that they are targeting piracy sites located elsewhere in the world that are less likely to turn up to US court to defend themselves.