NEW YORK (CNN/Money) -
The Motion Picture Association of America is set to follow the lead of the music industry and start filing lawsuits against individuals who it charges are illegally trading digital copies of movies, according to a published report.
The Wall Street Journal reported that the legal effort will be announced Thursday. Trade industry publications have reported that such a legal strategy had been weighed and debated within the industry for several months.
The Recording Industry Association of America has filed more than 1,500 lawsuits against individuals it charged with widespread illegal downloading of songs over the Internet. That industry blames free downloads as a major cause of the drop in CD sales. The industry believes the lawsuits have helped stem the illegal downloading of music, helping to push some individuals to pay download sites which pay royalties to the record labels.
The movie industry's anti-piracy efforts thus far have concentrated on an education campaign, including anti-piracy commercials that play in theaters before the start of movies. But the paper said that some studios, notably News Corp.'s Fox, have pushed the other members of the MPAA to take the more aggressive legal campaign.
The Journal reports that the movie industry hasn't faced widespread piracy experienced by music companies. It takes far longer to download an entire movie or DVD than a song. But DVD sales have become an important driver of industry profits, one it feels it must move to protect before illegal downloads become more common. The paper said that the industry estimates that annual sales lost to all forms of piracy -- including the physical bootlegging of films, usually on DVD or videocassette -- has crossed the $3 billion mark.