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MPAA files civil suits against file sharers

The MPAA followed through on its legal threats Tuesday, filing civil suits against what sources confirmed were slightly more than 200 alleged Internet film pirates.

MPAA topper Dan Glickman confirmed earlier this month the MPAA would be following the RIAA’s lead in taking legal action against individuals who illegally trade copyrighted files through peer-to-peer networks (Daily Variety, Nov. 5).

While details on the targets, who will remain anonymous until a judge orders Internet service providers to hand over the alleged pirates’ identities to the MPAA, weren’t available, they include individuals across the country who have engaged in varying levels of file sharing.

Some of those being sued may have traded only one movie online.

“We want to make clear there is no safe harbor,” said MPAA director of worldwide antipiracy operations John Malcolm. “My experience is that any time you draw a line for illegal behavior, people will go right up to that line. Our perspective is that any theft is wrong.”

Malcolm added that while no decisions have been made on how the suits will be resolved, he expects many of them will be settled for relatively low dollar amounts, as has happened with the RIAA. Federal law allows studios to collect up to $30,000 for each movie illegally traded online and up to $150,000 if it can be proven the copyright infringement was willful.

Suits are expected to be the first of thousands from the MPAA, which is already preparing more. Malcolm said the org would monitor the results of the first suits before filing the next wave, but considered it highly likely more will come soon.

In addition, MPAA announced the expansion of its antipiracy educational campaign into video stores. Org is working with the Video Software Dealers Assn. to play “Rated I: Inappropriate for all ages” antipiracy trailers on in-store monitors, as well as hanging posters.

“Litigation alone is not the solution,” Glickman stated, “but it is part of a broader MPAA effort that includes education and new technological tools among other components.”

Org is also offering free for download new software for parents or the nontech-savvy that can detect peer-to-peer applications and music and movie files. Users can then eliminate anything that might bring on the MPAA’s or RIAA’s legal wrath.

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