The organization also said it will release free software to help parents and other computer owners identify all the music, movie and peer-to-peer software files on their machines.
The trade group, which is following in the path of a similar legal strategy laid down by the Recording Industry Association of America, declined to say how many people it is suing or what file-swapping networks it's focusing on. However, an MPAA representative said suits will be brought across the United States and that this will be just the first of successive rounds of legal action against individuals.
"The motion-picture industry must pursue legal proceedings against people who are stealing our movies on the Internet," MPAA Chief Executive Officer Dan Glickman said in a statement. "The future of our industry, and of the hundreds of thousands of jobs it supports, must be protected from this kind of outright theft using all available means."
After years of letting the RIAA take the lead in legal action, the MPAA has stepped up its campaign against peer-to-peer networks on several fronts, hoping in large part to frighten would-be file-swappers into dropping the practice.
The lawsuits are being accompanied by a series of full-page newspaper advertisements, running in college publications and in mainstream titles including The Wall Street Journal.
One of these ads shows a finger clicking a mouse, alongside a headline emblazoned in red: "Is this you?" That's followed by a long list of user names and IP addresses typical of those found on file-sharing networks such as Kazaa, eDonkey, DirectConnect, Grokster and Lime Wire, which are named specifically. "If you think you can get away with illegally trafficking in movies, think again," the ad warns.
The ad campaign will also be supported by the Video Software Dealers Association, which plans to post versions of the ads in 10,000 video stores nationwide, the MPAA said.
The software, designed to scan hard disks for media and peer-to-peer files, will soon be freely available from the MPAA. A representative of the group said the program, developed by a Danish software company, does not yet have a name.
It will only identify files, not automatically delete them, the group said.