LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Hollywood's major movie studios filed a new
round of lawsuits across the United States on Thursday against people
who trade illegally copied films and TV shows on the Internet.
The civil suits against unnamed "John Doe" defendants seek
up to $150,000 per downloaded digital file and come as the U.S.
film industry prepares for its annual Oscar telecast in
Hollywood where awards for top films and stars are given out.
The studios, represented by the Motion Picture Association of America,
took the opportunity of the Oscars to again press the case that the
illegal copying of films and their black-market distribution on the
Internet is costing them millions of dollars a year in lost revenue.
The studios claim they lose $3.5 billion worldwide in annual
revenues from sales of illegally copied movies on video and DVD
formats in street bazaars and black markets.
The studios argue that the lost revenue means fewer artists
will work to create movies or TV shows. Traditionally the films
that are rewarded by Oscar voters at the Academy of Motion
Picture Arts and Sciences are those that take thematic and
"When rampant online theft occurs, these films become that much harder
to finance ... we cannot and will not let that happen," MPAA Chief
Executive Dan Glickman said in a telephone conference call with
MPAA officials said "several" of the Oscar nominated films had illegal
copies on the Internet that could be downloaded, but they named only
comedy "Sideways," which is nominated for best picture.
"Sideways" is a low-budget movie but was considered a financially
risky one for its backers at Fox Searchlight because of its offbeat
subject matter. Fox Searchlight is a division of News Corp Ltd's
Twentieth Century Fox movie studio.
MPAA officials declined to say how many suits it had filed or whether
the illegal copies were made by video camera taping in theaters or by
copying videos or DVDs that are given away by the studios this time of
year to win Oscar votes.
Earlier this month, the MPAA filed lawsuits against computer networks
utilizing a software technology known as BitTorrent, but these new
suits were against end users, or people who actually downloaded the
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