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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The Motion Picture Association of America on Thursday sued Pullmylink.com, a Web site featuring links to free -- and allegedly pirated -- movies and TV shows, claiming the site promotes and profits from copyright infringement.
The lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles federal court, is the seventh action filed by the MPAA against content aggregators in the United States since late last year and is part of a larger anti-piracy campaign that included a criminal raid on the UK headquarters of one such site, TV Links.
The campaign against sites that link to, but do not host, illegal content has raised some eyebrows with critics asking why the association doesn't go after the host sites or Internet search engines such as Google.com, which owns video sharing site YouTube.com.
"Is the message that it's less criminal to host illegal content on YouTube than it is to link to it from a site such as TV Links?" Guardian technology columnist Jack Schofield wrote in the wake of the MPAA-directed raid on TV Links in October. "In future, do I risk being thrown in the slammer for linking directly to a YouTube video?"
The MPAA, which represents Hollywood's major studios in government affairs, has obtained settlements or resolutions in the six other cases against Web aggregators of video content. It plans to continue its aggressive pursuit of new sites using "a variety of techniques" to force them to hand back profits made from advertising, anti-piracy director John Malcolm said.
The association has talked with Google and other search engines, as well as Chinese user-generated content sites that host many of the videos, to try to have traffic directed away from the infringing content and to have it taken down quicker, Malcolm said.
"We think these companies are good corporate actors (and) we engage with them in other ways," Malcolm said. "You can't equate a legitimate search vendor ... with somebody who is making a lot of money off the backs of creative artists."
The MPAA says piracy, including Web postings of camcorded and unlicensed content, cost the U.S. film industry $18.2 billion in lost profits in 2005, including $7 billion from Internet piracy.
Pullmylink.com sees 12,000 visitors a day who view more than 39,000 pages of content, including movies that are still in theaters and cable television shows.
The site recently featured links to streamed copies of the feature films "Stop-Loss," "21" and "The Other Boleyn Girl," which have not yet been released to DVD, as well as the cable TV series "The Tudors," "Entourage," and "Rome" and many broadcast TV series.
It also carried advertisements by online movie rental company Netflix Inc. A Netflix spokesman said the company buys its online ads in bulk and was not aware that one had ended up on pullmylinks.com.
Malcolm said the MPAA was exploring "the whole issue of (online) ad brokers" as another avenue for choking off revenue to illegal streaming and download sites.
Editing by Braden Reddall