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 access movies online. In so doing, Hollywood follows in the footsteps of the music industry, which has filed more than 6,000 lawsuits against file sharers since September 2003.
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. It is not yet clear whether the MPAA lawsuits will make similar actions necessary.
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.
Hollywood cannot credibly claim that file sharing is jeopardizing their profits. According to TIME Magazine's October 11, 2004, edition: "The studios can't exactly argue that file sharing is about to put them out of business. DVD sales, which grew 33 percent last year, and box-office receipts have never been stronger."
"These lawsuits are misguided," said 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 noncommercial sharing when the studios are rolling in record profits."
"In the end, what protects the studios from piracy is 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."