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MPAA leads legal assault on Oscar film piracy

As the motion picture industry celebrated it annual Academy Awards fest in Hollywood last week, lawyers for the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) — the industry’s trade association — filed a new round of lawsuits in reaction to the Internet trading of several Oscar-nominated films.

It was the third major round of legal filings by the MPAA, which is made up of the seven major studios and Lions Gate Films, in an effort to slow the swapping of motion pictures through peer-to-peer network exchange.

The MPAA said that among Oscar nominees, “Sideways,” “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” and “Spider-Man 2,” have been already been pirated and are being traded over the Internet.

In recent months the motion picture studios have participated in a wide range of legal actions in the United States and other countries against dozens of operators of file servers on the BitTorrent, Direct Connect and eDonkey networks. These servers are the backbone of peer-to-peer services.

The MPAA estimates that film piracy — usually in the form of illegal DVDs or VHS cassettes — is already costing the studios $3.5 billion each year. Though the industry claims peer-to-peer trading represents a big threat, most pirated films are illegally videotaped off a screen in a theater and are poor technical quality.

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