- On Tuesday, Macrovision, a maker of digital copyright protection technology and Websense, a maker of employee Internet management software, announced a strategic partnership to develop tools for locating pirated files on corporate and government networks, according to a statement released by the two companies.
The partnership is a response to heightened concern among corporations that they could be the target of lawsuits filed by industry groups such as the Recording Industry Association of America (news - web sites) or the Motion Picture Association of America when company resources are used to download, store, or distribute pirated content.
The RIAA and Integrated Information Systems of Tempe, Arizona, acknowledged in April that IIS had agreed to pay the RIAA $1 million in damages when it was discovered that employees used a company server to share pirated MP3 files.
"This is a self-fulfilling prophecy," says Kian Saneii, vice president of business development at Websense of San Diego, California.
"As the MPAA and RIAA make an issue of this, people will get sued and have to fork over money. All you need is a few lawsuits in order for people to say 'I need this [software] to sleep well at night.'"
....Still, the liability of companies for the actions of their employees in handling pirated material is still an open question, says Jonathan Zittrain, assistant professor of law at Harvard University Law School and co-director of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society.
He sees the introduction of monitoring technology such as that being developed by Websense and Macrovision as a development that benefits copyright holders more than companies and their employees.
"My sense is 'score one for the content publishers'," says Zittrain.
"It represents an education that has taken place with content publishers and the companies that market to them about the topography of the Internet--a very intelligent view of the different bottlenecks along the path from one music lover to another."
Harvard's Zittrain also wonders whether companies such as Websense and Macrovision aren't tapping a more general anxiety about viruses and spam e-mail in the corporate sphere to push what is otherwise intrusive software.
"This comes at a propitious moment for content publishers. You have a convergence in the workplace environment of a desire to build firewalls and virus scanners and a desire, because of concerns about sex harassment, to filter e-mails to prevent pornography. It's brilliant to call [the joint product] a 'liability protector.' Who wouldn't want to buy a liability protector?"
The incentive to be self-employed grows apace. Oops, gotta go, I'm next in the drug testing line.