PC user sued for illegally downloading 2 films
(Watertown Daily Times (NY) (KRT) Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge) Apr. 28--A Carthage woman has found herself swept up in a nationwide crackdown by the film industry to stop illegal downloads of movies.
Cindy M. Childers, 124 Washington St., is being sued in U.S. District Court, Syracuse, by Columbia Pictures Industries Inc., Culver City, Ca., and Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc., Burbank, Calif., for having two copyrighted movies downloaded via the Internet on her home computer.
The studios claim the movies "Are We There Yet?" and "Million Dollar Baby" were used June 19, 2005, without their permission and distributed using "an online distribution system" to the public.
"They weren't even good movies," Ms. Childers said Thursday.
She said the movies were downloaded by her boyfriend's 13-year-old son without her knowledge.
"I don't even know how to do it. I only know how to get my e-mail," she said.
But because the movies were downloaded through her Internet service to her computer, the studios claim she is on the hook for their use.
Ms. Childers, who works as a clerk at a convenience store, said the studio sent her a letter demanding payment of $166 per month for three years for use of the movies, "which they said was cheap."
"I asked if it couldn't be a warning or something. They said ignorance of the law is no excuse," she said.
Video piracy robs movie studios of more than $1 billion a year, according to Kori Bernards, vice president of corporate communications for the Motion Picture Association of America, Los Angeles, of which Columbia Pictures and Warner Bros. are members.
In an attempt to crack down on the thefts, the association, on behalf of all major movie studios, began filing lawsuits in November 2004 to prevent "peer-to-peer" swapping of movies over the Internet.
"We've ramped up our efforts in the past couple of years to raise awareness of piracy and of the consequences of piracy," she said.
Those consequences could include fines ranging from $30,000 to $150,000 and up to five years in prison, Ms. Bernards said.
She said members of the association have filed "upwards of several hundred" lawsuits against "people in the biggest of cities and the smallest of towns" who they believe have unlawfully disseminated copyrighted materials.
"In most settlements, people have found that the cost of stealing a movie far outweighs the cost of going to a movie," she said.
Ms. Bernards said the association has an investigative unit that monitors peer-to-peer swapping of files containing movies. If it comes across such activity, it is able to track down the alleged culprits through the person's Internet service provider.
She acknowledges that some of the movie-swapping could be children doing it without parental consent or knowledge.
"In many of the individual suits, people aren't aware that someone in their house is pirating movies," she said.
The association has information on its Web site, www.mpaa.org, that can tell parents how to recognize movie files and common peer-to-peer file sharing applications that have been installed on their computer.
Ms. Childers said her boyfriend's son did not know downloading movies is illegal. She cautions people to be careful of what they download onto their computers.
"Beware, and know that it's not a warning if you get that letter. They won't drop it," she said.
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