The MPAA fired its latestvolley in the war against piracy yesterday, announcing that it will commence legalaction against individuals who trade in illegal digital copies of films overthe internet.

"Illegal movie traffickingrepresents the greatest threat to the economic basis of moviemaking in its110-year history," MPAA president and chief executive officer Dan Glickman saidin a press conference yesterday (4).

Glickman, who was joined bystudio executives, union leaders and filmmakers, added: "People who have beenstealing our movies believe they are anonymous on the internet, and wouldn't beheld responsible for their actions. They are wrong. We know who they are, andwe will go after them, as these suits will prove.

"Filing suitagainst movie thieves is our latest step in a wide-ranging, multi-pronged anti-piracyeffort, but far from our first. But file-swapping is a viral threat that wemust bring under control now. File traders must realise that bad things happen whenyou steal copyrighted material. These lawsuits are just one of those bad things."

The move was announced at UCLA'sSchool of Theatre, Film and Television, one of the leading institutions in thehighly public fight against piracy. UCLA has implemented a series of quarantinetechnologies to restrict internet access to those found to be dealing in piratedmaterial.

The university has partneredwith MPAA affiliates in sharing information on illegal file-sharing trends and indicators, developing policy recommendations and testingpilot projects.

Glickman's comments were echoedby California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who said: "I applaud the decisionby the MPAA and its member companies to take strong action and I join the USDepartment of Justice, the State of California, the recording industry andothers in making sure that people use the great promise of the internetresponsibly and ethically, and that motion pictures remain an important part ofCalifornia and the nation's economy in the decades to come."

Schwarzenegger recentlysigned a bill making it a misdemeanor to swap films or music online withoutrevealing the trader's e-mail address. The governor also issued an executiveorder banning the use of state resources, including computers and internet access,to illegally swap copyrighted material.

A recent federal interagencyreport estimates that counterfeit and pirated goods, including those ofcopyrighted works, cost the American economy $250bn a year, while the MPAA continuesto tout the by-now-familiar figure of $3.5bn as the amount of potential studiorevenue lost each year to piracy.