The MPAAannounced yesterday (16) that the first wave of lawsuits targeting individualonline traders of illegally copied films have been filed in US courts.

The civil suitsagainst individual offenders cover copyright violations on major P2P networksand the MPAA is seeking damages and injunctive relief.

MPAA presidentand chief executive officer Dan Glickman announced the policy of targetingindividual online pirates last week. Under the Copyright Act, an individual canbe liable for up to $30,000 for each feature film illegally traded over theinternet, rising to $150,000 per title where infringement is proven to bewillful.

At the same timeGlickman unveiled a new public outreach programme with the Video SoftwareDealers Association (VSDA), whereby up to 10,000 US video stores will soonbegin playing anti-piracy messages on their in-store monitors.

Thepublic-outreach partnership with VSDA will kick off next month, when storeswill also and display anti-piracy posters and counter cards.

"Video retailersare threatened with significant losses from illegal online file trading ofmovies and bootleg copies sold on the streets," VSDA president Bo Andersensaid.

"A key elementof the strategy to confront this growing threat to our industry is to educatethe public and change the culture from one of lawlessness to one of respect forthe work and property of others.

Glickman also said free softwarewould shortly become available to help people determine what music and filmfiles and P2P applications are on their computers. A link to the software willappear on the MPAA's site.