Ordinary file sharers have largely been spared by Hollywood and its world-wide partners so far, but it looks like this is about to change: Germany-based movie powerhouse Constantin Film has started the first mass-scale enforcement effort against file sharers. Constantin has been identifying more than 10,000 file sharers as infringers in recent months, and it has started to send threatening letters to about 500 of them, according to an article published in Germany's Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

The company is using these letters to demand out-of-court settlements, asking for 800 Euros (about 1000 USD) per infringing work as well as the promise to not commit any further acts of infringement. Downloaders that don't pay up can expect a full-fledged lawsuit.

Constantin Film is Germany's biggest motion picture production and distribution company. IMDB credits it as the production company of Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, Resident Evil: Extinction, DOA: Dead or Alive, as well as countless German titles. It also has Germany-wide distribution rights for Hollywood flicks like Michael Clayton and Basic Instinct 2.

Constantin executive Bernhard Burgener told the newspaper that his company has been going after file sharers since March. Burgener called the 1000 USD his company is demanding from file sharers "largely symbolic." Accused file shares that don't quite make as much money as him may disagree.

Mass-scale copyright enforcement through costly out-of-court settlements has been pioneered by the German music industry, who recently broadened its focus and is now also targeting Rapidshare uploaders. The tactic was quickly copied by porn studios that have been targeting tens of thousands of German file sharers in recent years.

However, if there's one lesson to be learned from those music and porn enforcement campaigns, then it's that rights holders don't just want to crack down on German downloaders. In fact, the very same enforcement companies that have helped to make Germany the testbed for a taking no prisoners approach of intellectual property protection have also started to export these tactics to other countries, leading amongst other things to thousands of threatening letters to UK residents accused of downloading video games. It wouldn't be too surprising to see Constantin go after file sharers in other countries as well.

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