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Hollywood's Napster Moment

That ubiquitous teenybopper vampire flick "New Moon" racked in over $140 million during its opening weekend. Not a bad take, considering fans also had the unofficial option of streaming the video for free online, according to a report in the Chicago Sun-Times.
The Napster moment has arrived for the television and movie industries.

In the time it once took to download a three minute tune during Napster's heyday back in 2001, fans can download an entire movie these days. Last April, a pirated version of "Wolverine II" was downloaded over one million times before the flick even got to the theaters.

But there's no real need to even bother downloading a song, television program or movie anymore. Videos can be quickly uploaded anywhere on the planet and streamed on any browser. And since most data lives in the cloud and not on desktops, the Motion Picture Association of America would be wasting its time going after illegal end-user libraries like the recording industry once did.

Hollywood will face its toughest test with the online networks that host streamable versions of its content. Predictably, none of these sites claim to ever knowingly host illegal content and they will ultimately cooperate with copyright holders. But as an article on Forbes notes, sites like Megavideo, which is conveniently registered in Hong Kong, pays its users to upload content. Therefore, whenever Hollywood cites a copyright infringement and illegal content is deleted, there's still an incentive (and it would be naive to think that most digital pirates care about the money) for some other fan to upload another version of the file. There are now hundreds of illegal copies of every popular television show and movie available on the web for free viewing.

Third-party sites also provide user-generated indexes that help fans find out where specific content can be streamed online. Even with those helpful directories, all the lawyers in the world couldn't track and cite every infringement.

How should Hollywood deal with its Napster moment? Please share your thoughts and bold predictions below.

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