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Out to Sea: Movie Piracy

We test copies of ‘Scary Movie,’ ‘Gladiator,’ and other flicks downloaded from film-sharing sites

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Pirated films have been traded online for years, but a new generation of file-swapping software has come along that supposedly makes grabbing a copy of The Perfect Storm as easy as downloading an ‘N Sync single from Napster. So the Motion Picture Association of America has leapt into action, filing suit two weeks ago against Scour.com even as one of the company’s founders was in Washington sorting out the legal issues of digital downloads. But just how big a threat is online movie piracy? I installed and logged on to Scour Exchange, Gnutella, and others. My not-too-encouraging results:

Using Scour, I got the first five minutes of Gladiator, which looked like an Iron Chef butcher-shop challenge in my 2-by-2 window.

Two copies of Scary Movie from a Gnutella user showed only the Dimension Films logo.

MPAA head Jack Valenti says he typed ”perfect storm” into Scour’s search engine and got 100 responses. What he didn’t say is that watching it required software I didn’t have and couldn’t find.

South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut, from a Gnutella user, disappears just after Kyle sings, ”It’s going to be the best movie ever!”

The movies I did get: a work print of American Pie, and a jittery, letterboxed edition of American Psycho, with off-and-on sound, from a Gnutella user.

While posting pirated movies online is unlawful, downloading and watching them with today’s technology has got to be an even greater violation.