The MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) has stepped up its crackdown on internet piracy by launching lawsuits against several major TV-oriented torrent websites.

The company has thusfar focussed its energy on closing down sites which facilitate the distribution of movies across the web but is now taking on those who specialise in offering TV shows.

Recent research revealed that tens of thousands of surfers regularly download their favourite programmes, a phenomenon especially common in the UK.

"Internet thievery of all creative materials is unacceptable and these thieves need to realize they are not anonymous," said MPAA President and CEO Dan Glickman.

"Every television series depends on other markets-syndication and international sales to earn back the enormous investment required to produce the comedies and dramas we all enjoy and those markets are substantially hurt when that content is stolen. On these sites, anyone in the world can download entire television seasons in a single click."

Among the sites slapped with a lawsuit are:

ShunTV : Has around 10,000 registered users.
Zonatracker : Has over 2500 users. It offers hundreds of popular movies, including many movies still in cinemas.
Btefnet : This torrent site and the eight associated servers specialise in distributing television shows. Over 48,000 registered users seed files on the servers
Scifi-Classics : Distributes science fiction content. Torrents are posted in the forum section, which has over 1600 users, and are tracked by the associated server.
CDDVDHeaven : Has over 8000 registered users. The site profits by giving privileges to users who make
monetary contributions to the site, allowing them faster downloading speeds
without requiring them to upload torrents
Bragginrights : Has over 12,000 registered users and a wide variety of torrents, including those for films currently on release. It solicits donations to make money.
The MPAA claims that since it began action against torrent sites, the amount of time required to download a pirated file has increased "exponentially."

"The experience of downloading copyrighted films and TV shows is not what it
used to be," added Glickman. "We intend to make it even worse."