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Movie Industry Sues Grandfather Over Grandson's Downloads

A 67-year-old man who says he doesn't even like watching movies has been sued by the film industry for copyright infringement (search) after a grandson of his downloaded four movies on their home computer.

The Motion Picture Association of America filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday against Fred Lawrence of Racine, seeking as much as $600,000 in damages for downloading four movies over the Internet file-sharing service iMesh (search).

The suit was filed after Lawrence refused a March offer to settle the matter by paying $4,000.

"First of all, like I say, I guess I'd have to plead being naive about the whole thing," he said. "I personally didn't do it, and I wouldn't do it. But I don't think it was anything but an innocent mistake my grandson made."

Lawrence said his grandson, who was then 12, downloaded "The Incredibles," "I, Robot," "The Grudge," and "The Forgotten" in December, without knowing it was illegal to do so.

The Racine man said his grandson downloaded the movies out of curiosity, and deleted the computer files immediately. The family already owned three of the four titles on DVD, he said.

"I can see where they wouldn't want this to happen, but when you get up around $4,000 ... I don't have that kind of money," Lawrence said. "I never was and never will be a wealthy person."

Kori Bernards, vice president of corporate communications for MPAA, said the movie industry wants people to understand the consequences of Internet piracy (search). She said the problem is the movies that were downloaded were then available to thousands of other users on the iMesh network.

"Basically what you are doing when you use peer-to-peer software is you are offering someone else's product that they own to thousands of other people for free, and it's not fair," Bernards said.

Illegal downloading costs the movie industry an estimated $5.4 billion a year, she said.