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Taking a cue from recording companies, Hollywood movie studios are preparing to file copyright infringement lawsuits against computer users it says are illegally distributing movies online, a source familiar with the studios’ plans said Wednesday. The lawsuits will target movie fans who share digitized versions of films over peer-to-peer networks, with the first wave of litigation planned for as early as today, according to the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity. Like the recording industry, which began suing individual music file-sharers last year, the movie studios plan an ongoing litigation campaign, the source said. The Motion Picture Association of America, which represents the major film studios, declined to comment Wednesday. But the organization issued a release saying its chief executive would be making “a major announcement regarding illegal file sharing of motion pictures on peer-to-peer networks” early today. The movie studios were still finalizing how many lawsuits would make up their initial filing, but it would probably be around 200 or so, the source said. Videotaped copies of films in theaters often are digitized or burned off DVDs and then distributed on file-sharing networks. The MPAA claims the U.S. movie industry loses more than $3 billion annually in potential global revenue because of physical piracy, or bogus copies of videos and DVDs of its films. The MPAA doesn’t give an estimate for how much online piracy costs the industry annually, but claims the health of the industry is at stake as the copying and distribution of movies online continues to grow unabated. Along with the recording industry, movie studios have tried to shut down companies behind file-sharing software through litigation with little success. The movie industry has also tried to battle piracy by running ads in movie theaters and elsewhere designed to dissuade people from file-sharing films by stressing the risks of identity theft and liability. Up to this point, the studios have stopped short of taking legal action against individuals. AP Business Writer Gary Gentile contributed to this report. Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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