The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) — following in the footsteps of its recording industry counterpart, the RIAA — announced today its intent to file a series of lawsuits aimed at stopping the sharing of films over peer-to-peer (P2P) networks.
At least five major studios are expected to join the lawsuits, which target digital movie copies distributed over file sharing networks that can be accessed with programs such as eDonkey, Kazaa, and Grokster.
The suits — which could number more than 200 initially — will be filed by MPAA member companies against individual file-swappers across the country beginning Nov. 16.
The MPAA claims to lose more than US$3 million annually worldwide to piracy and says that figure does not include its substantial losses from illegal Internet downloading.
The MPAA has already begun an aggressive public education campaign that features newspaper, magazine, and theater ads in hopes of deterring illegal movie downloading. In addition, the group is working with more than 120 colleges and universities throughout the United States to help them create and enforce codes of conduct for student computer use.
Graham Mudd, Senior Analyst at comScore, which tracks monthly Internet usage, including peer-to-peer applications, said the threat of legal action has helped curb piracy slightly in the music arena.
“Peer-to-peer usage is still strong, with a substantial amount of activity, although we have seen a decline since June 2003, which is about the time the RIAA began to publicize its intent to sue,” said Graham Mudd, Senior Analyst at comScore, which tracks monthly Internet usage, including peer-to-peer applications.
“The decline has been relatively steady since that time. Some smaller peer-to-peer applications have shown growth, but not enough to make up for the overall attrition,” he said.
Mudd said “it’s a safe bet” that the decline is the result of the lawsuits and the publicity surrounding them, as well as the increased availability of different legal options, like iTunes and MusicMatch, for buying music online.
The movie industry had been hoping for Congressional help this year, and they got it in June, when the “Protecting Intellectual Rights Against Theft and Expropriation Act,” known as the PIRATE Act, passed the Senate.
Meanwhile, the companies that offer the downloads are fighting back with their own Internet campaigns, urging users to get involved and let legislators know of their support for the services.
Kazaa has its own “Join the Revolution” program, while “P2P United” is a coalition formed by Grokster, Blubster, eDonkey, Bearshare, and Morpheus.
Behind the Times?
A spokesperson for one of these major sites, who did not want to be identified, accused the industry of essentially shooting itself in the foot with its confrontational approach. “The movie industry is declaring war on its own customers,” he said.
“The problem can be solved by partnering with providers of peer-to-peer applications. It’s efficient, effective, and the way to go, especially with video, which requires a large amount of bandwidth. But relying on older technology is typical of the industry. If it had its way, movies would still be shown on 16mm film.”