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Warner Bros. Charges Downloader $20 For Pirated Episode Of 'Friends'

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What's the value of an episode of Friends, specifically season 2, episode 5, where Monica, played by Courteney Cox, is fired for taking five steaks and an eggplant from work? Apparently, $20, according to Warner Bros.'s legal department.

As the battle rages on between the movie studios and sites that allow and promote downloading of illegally-pirated content, we've seen numerous attempts by the media giants to thwart the efforts of those who unscrupulously share copyrighted material. Recently, HBO stepped up its efforts to prevent Game Of Thrones from being viewed by non-subscribers, while headlines have reported copyright infringement notices sent to numerous downloaders of the latest hot Hollywood releases, such as 50 Shades Of Grey.

However, while the latest and greatest blockbusters and hit TV shows seem to be the most often targeted file downloads by the studios, it looks like that's not all they're protecting, as one of the most lucrative revenue streams for Hollywood is from syndication and streaming rights to older content, especially classic sitcoms such as Friends, the iconic ensemble show that launched the careers of stars Jennifer Aniston, David Schwimmer, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matthew Perry and Matt LeBlanc.

While the hit show left NBC's "must-see" Thursday lineup 11 years ago after a providing decade of laughter, its producer, Warner Bros. Studios, still rakes in the cash through sales of syndication rights for repeats, which still garner huge ratings as well as sales of legal streaming rights and DVD sales.

It appears the company is serious about protecting its lucrative content regardless of its age, as it has begun sending infringement notices to downloaders. A copy of one notice surfaced recently, which stated in part:

"Although WB understands and appreciates that you are a fan of its content, the unauthorized uploading and downloading of its copyrighted content is a serious matter. Your ISP service could be suspended if this matter is not resolved. You could also be liable for substantial civil penalties for copyright infringement."

The notice includes a settlement offer that states that, while the actual damages suffered by the company as a result of the copyright infringement are greater than $20, the company is willing to accept that amount if the user agrees to permanently stop downloading content from the studio illegally.

The episode in question on the notice is 20 years old, but ironically, covers a theme that echoes the current downloading scenario. On the show, Monica is fired from her restaurant job by the establishment's owner for taking five steaks and an eggplant, which she regarded as a gift but actually turned out to be an illegal kickback. Similarly, the Friends episode itself may have been considered by the downloader to be a free gift of sorts, but the owner, Warner Bros., isn't having it and has taken action to protect itself and discourage future illegal activity.

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