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Hollywood readies lawsuits against individual P2P infringers


Hollywood lawsuits to strike Net pirates
Published: November 4, 2004, 2:38 PM PST
By Declan McCullagh

Hollywood studios are about to take the long-anticipated step of firing 
a barrage of lawsuits at some of the most prolific Internet pirates, 
echoing the legal strategy that the recording industry already has used 
with limited success.

The civil lawsuits, which will be filed against individual movie 
file-swappers starting Nov. 16, represent a kind of legal escalation for 
an industry that fears its films eventually may be shared on the 
Internet as widely as songs are today.


press release:

Studios to Begin Suing   Illegal Film File Swappers

Governor, Legislators, Studio Executives, Union Leaders, Filmmakers  and 
Others   Back Movie Industry in Actions Against Traffickers

LOS ANGELES - The Motion Picture Association of America, Inc. today 
announced its  lawyers will expand the MPAA’s  campaign to prevent film 
piracy, working with its  members and other film studios to file 
lawsuits against people who have illegally traded  digital copies of 
movies over the Internet.

“Illegal movie trafficking represents the greatest threat to the 
economic basis of moviemaking in its 110-year history,” said MPAA 
President and CEO Dan Glickman, who was  joined during the announcement 
by studio executives, union leaders, filmmakers and  others. “People who 
have been stealing our movies believe they are anonymous on the 
Internet, and wouldn’t be held responsible for their actions. They are 
wrong. We know  who they are, and we will go after them, as these suits 
will prove.”

The studio lawsuits were announced at the renowned School of Theater, 
Film and  Television at the University of California, Los Angeles, one 
of the nation’s great training  grounds for future filmmakers, whose 
ability to pursue their careers is threatened by the  impacts of piracy. 
As well, UCLA has been a leader nationwide in efforts to clamp down  on 
improper use of campus resources, implementing forward-thinking policies 
and  technologies that quarantine traders of illegally copied movies and 
music, restricting their  Internet access until offending material is 
removed from their computers. The University  of California system as a 
whole has partnered with the MPAA and its member studios,  sharing 
information on illegal file-sharing trends and indicators, developing 
policy  recommendations and testing pilot projects.

A recent federal interagency report estimates that counterfeit and 
pirated goods, including  those of copyrighted works, cost the American 
economy $250 billion a year. In response  to the report, the U.S. 
Justice Department and other federal agencies have committed to
increased law-enforcement and prosecutorial efforts against pirated and 
counterfeit  goods. The MPAA estimates “hard goods” movie piracy costs 
the film industry $3.5  billion a year. That total does not include 
losses from hundreds of thousands of illegal  downloads swapped over the 
Internet each day.

“We all know that digital distribution is the wave of the future, and 
the studios have all  supported legal download services in various 
ways,” Glickman said. “But we cannot  allow illegal trafficking to 
derail legitimate new technologies that provide consumers  with 
affordable, convenient access to high-quality movies on the Web. Trading 
a digital  file of a movie online without paying its owners is no 
different than walking into a store  and shoplifting a DVD.” 
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a member of both the Screen 
Actors Guild and  the Directors Guild of America, endorsed the 
announcement, which meshes with his own  recent initiatives against 
illegal file-swapping.

“I applaud the decision by the MPAA and its member companies to take 
strong action,”  Gov. Schwarzenegger said, “and I join the U.S. 
Department of Justice, the State of  California, the recording industry 
and others in making sure that people use the great  promise of the 
Internet responsibly and ethically, and that motion pictures remain an 
important part of California and the nation’s economy in the decades to 

The governor recently signed a bill making it a misdemeanor to swap 
movies or music  online without revealing the trader’s e-mail address. 
The governor also issued an  executive order banning the use of state 
resources, including computers and Internet  access, to illegally swap 
copyrighted material.

“The movie industry has contributed immeasurably to California’s 
economic strength,”  said Schwarzenegger. “It has also helped many of my 
own dreams come true. We cannot  let illegal movie piracy continue or it 
will cripple this important industry and seriously  hurt California’s 
economy. We must teach our children that the illegal downloading of 
movies and music is wrong, and that it has consequences.”

         The creative industries – including book publishing, music, 
video, television and movies  – are the single largest sector of the 
U.S. economy, generating more than 5 percent of  American gross domestic 
product. The copyright industries also comprise the only U.S.  industry 
sector to run a trade surplus with every other country in the world. 
  “Our members are the artists who conceive and create entertainment 
content consumed  by millions of people around the globe,” said Daniel 
Petrie Jr., president of the Writers  Guild of America, West. “Online 
piracy takes income directly out of real people’s  pockets.”

     “IATSE represents many of the nearly 1 million people whose 
livelihoods depend on the  work they do in many roles behind the camera 
for the movie business,” said Thomas C. Short, international president 
of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees.  “People 
who steal films online threaten the economic security of these master 
craftsmen,  technicians and artisans and their families. Their work and 
creative efforts deserve to be  protected.”

      For decades, the MPAA has staunchly fought piracy in many forms, 
facing both the  challenges and the opportunities of new technologies 
and movie formats, whether on  celluloid, television, satellite, cable 
TV, videocassettes, DVDs or online. This latest  enforcement step will 
help ensure a bright future for movies in the digital era.    Lawsuits 
will be filed against individual file-swappers across the country 
beginning Nov.  16 by MPAA member companies. The civil suits seek 
damages and injunctive relief

.   Under the Copyright Act, statutory damages can be as much as $30,000 
for each separate  motion picture illegally copied or distributed by an 
individual over the Internet, and as  much as $150,000 per motion 
picture if such infringement is proven to be willful.

     “Filing suit against movie thieves is our latest step in a 
wide-ranging, multi-pronged antipiracy effort, but far from our first,” 
Glickman said. “But file-swapping is a viral threat  that we must bring 
under control now. File traders must realize that bad things happen 
when you steal copyrighted material. These lawsuits are just one of 
those bad things.”    The studios have embraced the digital era on many 
fronts while confronting its  challenges. Those efforts have included 
building public awareness and expanding and  supporting legal online 
movie services such as MovieLink, CinemaNow and Moviebeam.  And film 
fans already can see movies in many different ways, for many different 
prices,  in many different settings, ranging from theatrical releases in 
a state-of-the-art cinema to  DVDs and VHS tape sales and rentals to 
video-on-demand services, pay-cable and free  broadcast TV offerings.

The Motion Picture Association of America is the leading voice and 
advocate for the  American motion picture, home video and television 
industries. Its members include  Buena Vista Pictures Distribution, Sony 
Pictures Entertainment Inc., Metro-GoldwynMayer Studios Inc., Paramount 
Pictures Corporation, Twentieth Century Fox Film  Corporation, Universal 
City Studios LLLP and Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.  More  information 
on piracy is available on the MPAA web site at www.mpaa.org

Posted by Declan McCullagh on Nov 08, 2004

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