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Studios target Oscar film swappers

As the Academy Awards near, Hollywood launches a third round of lawsuits against online film traders. Images: Creating a family of superheroes

Hollywood studios launched a new round of legal action Thursday, aimed in part at people swapping versions of nominated films in Sunday's Academy Awards ceremony.

The Oscar season has traditionally been a difficult one for Hollywood's antipiracy efforts, since movie studios typically distribute hundreds of copies of films to awards judges. Some of those copies inevitably end up on peer-to-peer networks or get copied and counterfeited.

As with previous rounds of lawsuits filed by the Motion Picture Association of America, the group's executives declined to say how many people were targeted in the lawsuits or where the suits were filed. They cited several award-nominated films--including "Sideways," "The Incredibles" and "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind"--as being involved in the lawsuits.

"The films stolen in these cases show that every corner of the industry, even smaller productions, are at risk," said Dan Glickman, the MPAA's chief executive officer. "When rampant online theft occurs, it makes it harder for these films to get financed."

The MPAA is several months into an aggressive new legal campaign against unauthorized film trading, which has resulted in several key file-swapping hubs being taken offline.

Earlier this month, the studio trade association announced that file-swapping site LokiTorrent, one of the hubs supporting BitTorrent technology, had agreed to pay a $1 million settlement and give its server logs to the MPAA. The news sparked worry among file swappers, who feared the information could be used for lawsuits against individuals.

As with the thousands of lawsuits launched by the Recording Industry Association of America, the new MPAA legal action is being taken against anonymous "John Doe" individuals. The names of defendants will come out through the course of court actions.

MPAA executives declined to comment on whether they believe any of the movies allegedly swapped by people involved in Thursday's lawsuits came from the versions of films sent to Academy Awards judges.