MPAA files anti-piracy suits

The Motion Picture Association of America; illegal file sharing; peer-to-peer file-sharing programs; lawsuits;

A trade group representing seven major movie studios has filed the first wave of lawsuits against individuals they say are offering pirated copies of movies using peer-to-peer file-sharing programs.

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) also said it would soon make available a computer program that sniffs out movie and music files on a user’s computer as well as any installed file-sharing programs, the Associated Press reported.

The group did not say how many defendants were sued or where the lawsuits were filed, nor did they make available a copy of the complaint.

Three lawsuits, obtained by the Associated Press, were filed in federal courts in St. Louis and Denver. Two suits filed in Denver name a total of 22 defendants, while the one in St. Louis targets 18 individuals. Other lawsuits were believed to have been filed in New York, Philadelphia and other areas with large concentrations of high-speed Internet customers.

The St. Louis lawsuit was brought against “John Doe” defendants, including four people who are allegedly in possession of one pirated film each. Like similar lawsuits filed by the record industry against downloaders of music files, the studios say they will be able to identify the individual defendants at a later date.

Some of the pirated copies of films allegedly offered over Internet peer-to-peer networks include “Troy,” from Warner Bros., “Spider-Man 2,” from Columbia Pictures and “Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen,” from The Walt Disney Co.

Unlike the recording industry, the Hollywood studios did not offer an amnesty program for people to admit they have illegal downloaded files. The lawsuits seek injunctions against the defendants. The copyright law also provides for penalties of up to $30,000 for each motion picture traded over the Internet, and up to $150,000 if such infringement is shown to be willful.

The MPAA said information detected by the free file-detection program could be used to remove any “infringing movies or music files” and remove file-sharing programs. The trade group said the program would be available for the Windows computer operating system on a special Web site established to educate consumers about copyrights.

MPAA president and chief executive Dan Glickman said that many parents are concerned about what their children have downloaded and where they’ve downloaded it from.

The MPAA said it would also join with the Video Software Dealers Association to place educational materials in more than 10,000 video stores nationwide. The materials will include anti-piracy ads that are also playing in theaters.

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