Aimster Inc. is being sued by seven major film studios that accuse it of copyright infringement by helping users swap movies online.
Aimster faces similar lawsuits filed by major record companies and music publishers. The service filed its own suits in May, asking a New York judge to rule it doesn't infringe recording or movie copyrights. Aimster is a file-swapping service that uses "buddy lists" such as America Online's instant messaging.
The movie studios see Aimster as presenting the same threat that the recording industry said it faced from Napster Inc., which allowed users to trade music files. A federal judge in March ordered Napster to block all trading of copyright-protected music, as the result of a lawsuit by the five biggest music companies.
The suit said Aimster created its service "to capitalize on the initial success in the peer-to-peer file-copying market achieved by the illegal Internet service provided by Napster."
The complaint said Aimster users can trade movies that are still in theaters, including "The Mummy Returns" and "A Knight's Tale," as well as films that recently came out on video.
The studios sued last Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.
The plaintiffs are Sony Corp., Walt Disney Co., Viacom Inc.'s Paramount Studios, News Corp.'s 20th Century Fox, Vivendi Universal, AOL Time Warner Inc. and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc.
Aimster Chief Executive Johnny Deep has argued that his company is a "private parcel service that sends packages in wrappers over the Internet." Because Aimster doesn't monitor files that are swapped, Deep likens the service to private mail sent through the U.S. Postal Service.