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Studios Sue More Than 200 in Online Piracy Fight

November 17, 2004|Jon Healey | Times Staff Writer

Hollywood studios sued more than 200 alleged online movie pirates Tuesday, seeking damages of up to $150,000 for each film offered or downloaded on file-sharing networks.

The Motion Picture Assn. of America disclosed few details about the suits, which were the first such actions by the industry. The suits were brought against "John Does" across the country. Some defendants were accused of sharing only one film.

"There is no kind of a safe harbor for illegal conduct," said John G. Malcolm, the MPAA's director of worldwide anti-piracy efforts.

Sources familiar with the situation said the lawsuits targeted people who offered bootlegged movies that had yet to be released on DVD.

They also said each of the seven major Hollywood studios -- Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc., Sony Corp.'s Sony Pictures, Time Warner Inc.'s Warner Bros., News Corp.'s 20th Century Fox, Viacom Corp.'s Paramount Pictures, Walt Disney Co.'s Walt Disney Pictures and NBC Universal's Universal Studios -- and independent Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. had brought claims.

The defendants were initially identified only by their Internet addresses, but the studios plan to ask Internet service providers soon to reveal the names associated with those addresses.

Dean C. Garfield, director of legal affairs for the MPAA's anti-piracy unit, said Internet providers began alerting customers about piracy claims Tuesday. He added that the MPAA had already started fielding calls from some of the people facing suits.

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