Way back in December of 2008 the RIAA said it was halting individual anti-piracy lawsuits against P2P downloaders, but we've also seen since then that it hasn't really. In additional, we've seen producers like Voltage Pictures suing on their own.
The initial purpose behind these lawsuits appears to be to acquire the personal data of the targeted BitTorrent users. Once that is done, the copyright organization goes directly to the user and offers them a chance to settle the case out-of-court, usually for somewhere between $1500 and $3000.
A person who is sued is not necessarily guilty, but even if that's the case, many will jump for these offers. The reason is that a court defense would be expensive, and if an alleged miscreant loses, they could end up paying far more (even if the original penalty is reduced).
The number of those that have been sued since the beginning of 2010 currently stands at 201,828. 1,237 allegedly used the eD2k network, but nearly all of the remainder are accused of sharing copyrighted content via BitTorrent. However, of those over 200K lawsuits, several cases have been dismissed or settled with the estimated number of potential defendants remaining at risk of a nasty letter in their mail sitting at around 145,000.
What's interesting is that none of the cases have thus far reached a trial. Also notable, is that this result is potentially far more profitable than, let's say, a $15 DVD. For example, if just half the 200,000+ settled, for say, an average fee of $2,500, lawyers, media giants, and producers would see about $250 million.
Most of that, probably, would end up in the hands of the lawyers, we'd guess.