Offshore Movie Pirate Ordered to Pay $28 Million

Gretchen Gallen
LOS ANGELES — As the Motion Picture Association of America's fight against file-sharing piracy gains momentum, the MPAA's legal team won a victory against a Malaysian man accused of pirating movie content through a paid membership site.

The MPAA and nine motion picture industry plaintiffs were awarded a judgment by a Los Angeles federal judge of $28.8 million against Alex Tan, the owner of popular website Film88.com and parent company Mastersurf Inc., as well as related individuals and companies behind the Internet operation.

The complaint was filed in July in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, charging the defendants with copyright and trademark infringement and contributory vicarious infringement. The defendants were charged with illegally streaming the plaintiffs’ copyrighted motion pictures over the Internet without authorization.

Tan allegedly ran company servers offshore to avoid liability, including servers in the Netherlands and Iran. He was also the former proprietor of another movie piracy website called Movie88.com that was shut down by Taiwanese officials last year.

According to John Malcolm, the MPAA's director of anti-piracy operations, Tan and the other defendants were ordered to shut down Film88.com and destroy all pirated movie copies.

“These defendants demonstrated a complete and utter lack of respect for the principles of ownership and property," said Mark Litvack of the MPAA. "Film88.com, for sheer personal gain and profit, offered copyrighted films without any consideration for the rightful owner who invested immense capital, time and effort to bring the film to audiences worldwide. We must ensure this brazen disregard for the value of copyrighted films is stopped immediately with appropriate penalties levied on all those involved. ”

Last week, the MPAA filed 11 lawsuits against hundreds of people they accused of using file-sharing networks to exchange pirated copies of movies. The lawsuits were filed against John and Jane Doe defendants as they were identified by numerical IP addresses.

But in a counter move to the MPAA's effort to curb movie piracy, a federal judge in California put a roadblock in front of the movie studios, ordering that the cases against those file-sharers be put on hold for all but one of the defendants.

Judge William Alsup ruled that because the claims against the 12 defendants were unrelated, it was unfair to lump them together.

"Such joinder may be an attempt to circumvent the filing fees by grouping defendants into arbitrarily joined actions but it could nonetheless appear improper under Rule 20," the order stated.