Movie Studios to Sue File Sharers

The major Hollywood studios have vowed to sue people who illegally download movies from the Internet. In a similar move, to the way the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) is using lawsuits to fight online piracy (they have filed more than 6,000 lawsuits against file sharers since September 2003), the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) announced that the major Hollywood motion picture studios would be filing hundreds of lawsuits against individuals using peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing software to share films online.

Rather than embracing P2P technology by looking for new ways to generate revenue, such a lowering the cost of movie rentals and DVDs, Hollywood is intent on further imposing its iron fist on movie fans. However, help is at hand. In connection with the music industry lawsuits, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has intervened in court to defend the privacy and due process rights of the individuals being sued, although it’s not yet clear whether the MPAA lawsuits will make similar actions necessary. Hollywood is pinning its hopes on federal legislation that would target file-sharing technology. If passed, the so-called Induce Act would close the legitimate-copying loophole and empower the MPAA to sue P2P file-sharing services such as Kazaa, Grokster and Morpheus.

The MPAA announcement comes on the heels of a recent study by the University of California, Riverside, and San Diego Supercomputer Center that shows that the music industry lawsuits have had no effect on the popularity of file sharing among US users, estimated at over 20 million. Movie studios can’t exactly argue that file sharing is about to put them out of business, as DVD sales grew 33 per cent last year and box-office receipts have never been stronger.

“These lawsuits are misguided,” said Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) Staff Attorney Wendy Seltzer, who has been involved in the music industry suits. “The music industry experience shows that the lawsuits don’t reduce the amount of file sharing. And it’s certainly not good PR to sue movie fans for non-commercial sharing when the studios are rolling in record profits.”

“In the end, what protects the studios from piracy is the what attracts people to buy or rent movies in the first place – a good product at a good price point,” said EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn. “As long as you can rent a movie on DVD for $2, movie file sharing is not likely to take a major bite out of studio revenues.”