Following the example of the music business the movie industry is targeting individual peer-to-peer pirates with an advertising campaign currently running in cinemas and on television across the U.S.
The ads, which can be viewed at RespectCopyrights.org, are designed to show the pirates how their activities affect the 'little guys' in the movie business, hoping to shift attention away from the million dollar grossing studios and stars.
Rich Taylor of the Motion Picture Association of America (Miaa), which is running the campaign, told U.S. news site The Pittsburgh Channel: "I think (the public) doesn't get that (movie piracy) is not a victimless crime. They think the only people impacted are those on the red carpet who have plenty of money".
The Miaa has long targeted more traditional pirates, selling bootlegged videos of blockbusters, but now it is realising the treat posed by peer-to-peer movie swappers. It estimates that the U.S. motion picture industry loses around US$3bn a year to pirates, but this figure does not include the losses from internet piracy as they are too hard to calculate.
But the ads are designed to show that these losses are not just hitting the fat cats of the industry and feature a whole host of people who work in movies, such as cinema staff, set painters and musicians.
They give four reasons why people shouldn't pirate movies. Firstly, punters are told they are cheating themselves as the quality of pirated movies are poor and that money lost in cinema takings means less films can be made. Secondly, pirates threaten the livelihood of the 500,000 ordinary Joes who work in the business. Thirdly, the ads claim that by swapping files on a peer-to-peer network you compromise the security of your PC and leave yourself open to legal action by making yourself "a distribution source for illegal downloading of movies". Finally, you are breaking the law.
This last point is one on which, so far, the movie industry has not been as tough as the music business. The Recording Industry Artists Association (Riaa) is using the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to bring legal action against around 75 people per day, including individual file swappers. So far the Miaa has stuck to going after the big guys -- those services set up to facilitate movie piracy, but Taylor says that it still considers pursuing individuals as an option.
In a separate move, designed to keep itself and its employees safe from such legal action, AOL Time Warner Inc. has taken steps to stop its staff from indulging in peer-to-peer file swapping. In an internal memo issued this week it said it plans to scan networks, desktops and laptops to check for peer-to-peer software and MP3 audio files, put in a firewall to stop P2P software from being downloaded, remove all P2P or unlicensed software, take disciplinary action against persistent offenders.
In the current climate of P2P persecution, we can only imagine that many such companies will follow suit.