RIAA, MPAA suing 'Net2 users

WASHINGTON — With the Supreme Court case on peer-to-peer file-sharing still pending, the Motion Picture Assn. of America and the Recording Industry Assn. of America have initiated a fresh round of lawsuits against college downloaders but are holding off on filing against more P2P software companies.

In separate press conferences held Tuesday, the two orgs announced they are pursuing illegal file-sharing on an advanced network known as Internet2, which some experts say is the next generation of the Internet.

Originally developed by more than 200 universities and some research laboratories and government agencies, Internet2 is essentially a smaller, extremely high-speed version of the current Internet that is still primarily used by universities.

But neither org will be filing against i2hub, a P2P software that students are using to share files in Internet2. “I2hub isn’t the only P2P network out there being used,” said RIAA prexy Cary Sherman, “and we will all benefit with a clarification from the Supreme Court” when it rules on the Grokster case. “That will give us a strategy for the best way to pursue network operators.”

MPAA director of antipiracy efforts John Malcolm said the pending Grokster case had nothing to do with the MPAA’s decision not to sue i2hub at the moment. “We’re weighing that option” is all he would say.

Similarly, MPAA topper Dan Glickman said only, “We have a message for the creators of i2hub: We know who you are and we strongly encourage you to stop what you’re doing.”

While academics and researchers are the main users of Internet2, students are increasingly using i2hub to exploit Internet2′s superior capability for illegal file-sharing, the MPAA and RIAA officials said. Internet2, Sherman said, “is the network of choice for students seeking to swap copyrighted material on a massive scale. Internet2 has been hijacked for illegal purposes.”

Downloading a feature-length movie from the Internet via DSL connection could take up to three hours. On Internet2, the same movie would take maybe five minutes.

Sherman added that students prefer Internet2 not just for its speed but also for its low profile, which creates the illusion that pirates are safe from detection. “We want to puncture that misconception,” he said.

Sherman said RIAA will file suits today against 405 students at 18 colleges. Malcolm refused to disclose the number of suits MPAA would file, saying, “Whether it’s 10 or 10,000, the number is irrelevant to the point we’ve been making, that this is wrong.”

But according to Sherman and Malcolm, so is i2hub. It is structured much like the original P2P software of Napster, which the recording industry successfully sued for copyright infringement. Not pursuing a case against i2hub suggests that movie and recording studios are not sure they could win under current court rulings.

Glickman also announced the MPAA would be naming its first round of individuals in lawsuits filed last November, when they were originally identified only as John Does.

Since then, the MPAA has learned their identities, though neither Glickman nor Malcolm would say how. “Our goal is to let thieves know they are not anonymous and they will be held accountable,” Glickman said. “You can click but you cannot hide.”

The new Internet2 suits bring the total number of individual actions filed by RIAA to more than 9,000.

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more