RecordTV.com goes offline as MPAA, others file complaint

Until Thursday, David Simon was only trying to create a way for his two kids to watch “Pokemon” online.

But these days, hell hath no fury like a Hollywood content provider who thinks his copyrights have been messed with. Twelve motion picture and entertainment companies sued the e-trepreneur and his Web venture RecordTV.com, charging the Netcaster with copyright infringement after he posted hours of recorded primetime television programming online for free.

The complaint against Simon, filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, alleges that the company copies and displays TV programs and films on the Web without authorization. The complaint also charges the defendant with trademark infringement, unfair competition and violation of cable television laws.

According to the complaint, RecordTV.com illegally copies TV programs through the unlawful use of a Los Angeles area cable TV signal. The copies are then available to anyone with Internet access. The company, which billed itself as a virtual VCR, claimed to get 1 million hits a day at its site and to have more than 50,000 active users.

Agoura Hills, Calif.-based Simon shut down RecordTV.com late Thursday, offering only an e-mail address and an apology.

“I created this site for my kids,” Simon told Daily Variety. “I had no idea there was an issue. I don’t want to fight the MPAA. I’m scared to death. I’m one guy with two kids and a small Web site.”

The MPAA, which is coordinating the litigation for its members, views the company’s actions as a serious threat. An MPAA spokeswoman likened the case to the suit against Canadian venture iCraveTV.com, earlier this year. That site allowed users to watch 17 TV stations via the Web, including four in Buffalo, N.Y., before being forced to close its doors.

As of Thursday, however, Simon said he had not been served by the suit, yet had lawyers calling who were willing to represent him. “Everyone has called me today but the MPAA,” he said. “Nobody has contacted me.”

The filed complaint states “defendants have admitted that their lawyers advised them that their actions were… ‘completely legal'” and that the company’s business plan brags “The beauty of this business is that we have zero cost of content for the Web site.”

However, Simon said he has no lawyers and that he, alone, is the company. He also claims site never made money and, in fact, is a loser. Simon recorded mostly children’s programming off of public TV and cable broadcasts, posting it on the Web. Site never streamed the programs live as iCraveTV did.

The involved studios are seeking an injunction against RecordTV to halt the copying and performances of their films and television programs.

In announcing the action, Jack Valenti, prexy and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America, issued this statement:

“David Simon, willingly and knowingly, has built a business based on offering its customers access to valuable stolen property. One hundred percent of the profits are made from offering popular television programs and movies that RecordTV has obtained no right to copy or display or have any part in distributing.”

The plaintiffs included in the complaint are MGM, Disney, Fox, Columbia, Columbia TriStar TV, ELP Communications, Paramount, Universal and Warner Bros. The plaintiffs are represented by Robert Schwartz of O’Melveny & Myers.

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