The MPAA haslaunched a third wave of lawsuits targeting online pirates of such currentOscar contenders as Spider-Man 2, Sideways and Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind.

Officers havefiled an unspecified number of 'John Doe' civil suits with federal courtsacross the US in the latest round of legal action since November. It isunderstood that individual defendants face fines of up to $150,000 each.

Among thosecited is a user of the online network at the Massachusetts Institute ofTechnology. However in a conference call with reporters yesterday [24] MPAA'ssenior vice president and director of worldwide anti-piracy operations JohnMalcolm refused to elaborate on the number or specific locations of theactions.

Malcolm alsorefused to say how many of the pirated titles may have come from screener DVDsissued by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences, Screen Actors Guildor other awards bodies, adding that the "overwhelming majority' of piratedmaterial came from illicit camcording of screenings.

He went on tosay that the anti-piracy campaign has reduced by 40% the number of 'host'servers monitoring illegal trade on peer to peer services like BitTorrent,Direct Connect and eDonkey.

However Malcolmand MPAA president Dan Glickman stressed the aim of the campaign was not to wagewar on technology, rather it was focused squarely on those who abusedtechnology.

Glickman saidpiracy made it especially hard for everybody involved with smaller pictures. Headded that Timur Bekmambetov, director of the hit Night Watch franchise, complained that levels ofpiracy in his native Russia were making it hard for him to secure financing onprojects.

Under thecourt-mandated process, the plaintiffs file against 'John Doe' defendants andamend the claim with specific names once these are obtained from an internetservice provider.

One previoussuit lodged with a Manhattan federal court has amended the defendants' names toJoseph Ducarmel, Michele Fortunato, Robert Mariott and Odenys Taveras.

Malcolm gavereporters a new figure to play with when he said the portal Informa Mediaestimated that online piracy cost MPAA affiliated companies $858m in lostpotential earnings each year. The figure is not endorsed by the MPAA.

Hard copypirated tapes account for approximately $3.5bn in lost potential earnings forthe studios each year.