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The MPAA's Lawsuit Against MovieTube Is Getting Even Stranger

The biggest battle waged this summer was not the one between Ultron (James Spader) and the Avengers, nor was it the war between Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and the Syndicate. Instead, there has been a legal fight going on behind the scenes between the MPAA, the major Hollywood studios and a syndicate of online pirates operating under the umbrellas of the MovieTube banner… and it continues to take several unexpected turns.

In July, according to THR, the Motion Picture Association of America and its members – which includes Paramount, Warner Bros., Fox, Columbia Pictures, Universal and Disney – filed a legal complaint against the mysterious and anonymous operators of the MovieTube websites, trying to prevent them from providing stream-worthy, pirated copies of Hollywood movies like Joss Whedon’s The Avengers: Age of Ultron. On a Facebook page associated with the MovieTube sites, the defendants in the suit claimed that they are not a U.S. operation, and therefore are not accountable to U.S. laws.

The MPAA appealing for legal assistance in shutting down the services of Internet pirates sounds like a no brainer. Of course major Hollywood studios would want to block sites from violating copyright laws and illegally streaming films, especially those still in theaters. Except, almost immediately, there was pushback from important corners of the Web. First, according to THR, lawmakers stopped short of fully embracing the Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA, because of how it might affect other websites that weren’t engaged in pirating content. Then recently, major pushback by Google, Yahoo, Facebook and Twitter triggered the MPAA to withdraw its injunction demand asking the court to force search engines and Internet Service Providers from even listing MovieTube. Instead, they claimed a moral victory, of sorts.  

MPAA representatives explained to that they no longer felt the need to pursue legal action at this time, for a specific reason:

I wanted to make sure you were aware, the MPAA member studios did NOT drop the lawsuit against the MovieTube sites. Our letter… simply said we were no longer seeking a preliminary injunction, as the sites are down and the preliminary injunction was not needed."

The violating sites reportedly were taken down voluntarily, but the basic concern from Google, Yahoo and other powerhouses still lingers. SOPA and even this injunction to block MovieTube would have created a dangerous legal precedent and a slippery slope of what can and can’t be blocked from the Internet. Because, if the MPAA’s demands were met, references to anything related to MovieTube were to be removed from search engines, social media, and more. And if a policy like this cold be enforced over MovieTube and its network, who’s to say that it couldn’t be enforced over something else deemed controversial next.

You can be sure that this will be an ongoing debate, and we’ll continue to track the progress of this complicated issue as it unfolds.

Sean O’Connell is a journalist and CinemaBlend’s Managing Editor. He's frequently found on Twitter at @Sean_OConnell. ReelBlend cohost. A movie junkie who's Infatuated with comic-book films. Helped get the Snyder Cut released, then wrote a book about it.