The Motion Picture Assn. of America (MPAA) will begin filing lawsuits against individual movie file-sharers on Nov. 16.

The Motion Picture Assn. of America (MPAA) will begin filing lawsuits against individual movie file-sharers on Nov. 16.

The civil suits will seek "damage and injunctive relief," according to an MPAA statement. Statutory damages may be as much as $30,000 per illegally copied or distributed film, or more than $150,000 if infringement is proved to be "willful."

The MPAA has been collecting evidence for the cases by working with an unnamed company that specializes in the tracking of copyrighted content online. It is not known how many lawsuits will initially be filed.

The MPAA estimates that movie piracy costs the film industry $3.5 billion per year. That total covers only "hard goods" piracy and does not include losses from illegal downloading.

"Filing suit against movie thieves is our latest step in a wide-ranging, multi-pronged anti-piracy effort, but far from our first," MPAA president/CEO Dan Glickman says in a statement. "But file-swapping is a viral threat that we must bring under control now. File traders must realize that bad things happen when you steal copyrighted material. These lawsuits are just one of those bad things."

The anti-piracy campaign has included advertisements in major newspapers and magazines and numerous outreach efforts.

A number of entertainment industry organizations and government officials have lauded the MPAA's move.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger says in a statement, "We cannot let illegal movie piracy continue or it will cripple this important industry and seriously hurt California's economy. We must teach our children that the illegal downloading of movies and music is wrong, and that it has consequences."

"Theft of movies over the Internet impacts not only Hollywood, it hurts local businesses in every community in America," says Bo Andersen, president/CEO of the Video Software Dealers Assn., in a statement. "Those who flout our nation's laws by engaging in unlawful file-sharing of movies must be held accountable for the harm they inflict."