The two studios are suing Triton Media, alleged to have provided advertising consulting and referrals for nine websites identified as "one-stop-shops" for infringing works.
Warners and Disney claim that Triton committed contributory copyright infringement and induced copyright infringement via their advertising assistance. The lawsuit indicates that Hollywood may be on the verge of expanding its hit-list of targets in the ongoing war against piracy.
The complaint was filed on Tuesday in U.S. District Court in California and is rather thin on specific details of Triton's services to these web sites.
Instead, it largely focuses on the misdeeds of the sites. The two studios identify www.free-tv-video-online.info, supernovatube.com, donogo.com, watch-movies.net, watch-movies-online.tv, watch-movies-links.net, havenvideo.com and piratecity.org as providing users access to content that has been unlawfully reproduced. The web sites are said to either host infringing content themselves or link to other third-party web sites that have infringing content.
All of these sites could themselves be liable for a contributory infringement claim, but the studios have instead decided to reach out even further by taking action against a larger business in Triton.
Triton allegedly enables these web sites to operate and has actual knowledge that the sites are participating in copyright infringement.
The two studios aren't the first to attempt to crack down on piracy by targeting so-called facilitators. Adult entertainment publisher Perfect 10 sued Mastercard and Visa in 2004, alleging the two credit card companies provided "crucial transactional support services" to pirate websites. A district court dismissed the case, and later the Ninth Circuit upheld it, determining that Perfect 10 had failed to support any theory of liability against the defendants.
Some legal observers have argued that Perfect 10 wasn't the "perfect plaintiff" to bring the case. It appears that Warners and Disney want to take a shot at being the very plaintiff that might expand the definition of contributory copyright infringement.
The studios are seeking unspecified monetary damages as well as an injunction that would prevent Triton from doing business with these web sites.