06/19/2001 AT 04:47 PM EDT
West Palm Beach, Fla., parents have sued Sony Pictures, claiming that the studio falsely marketed its comedy "The Animal," which contains scenes of human and animal sexual acts, to children. They are seeking $15,000 to $75,000 in compensatory and punitive damages. This has been a bad month for the studio. First it was accused of making up a critic and attributing rave reviews of some pictures (including "The Animal") to him. Now, Variety reports that Sony's Columbia Pictures division used members of its own advertising department to appear in TV commercials and give personal testimonials (as though they were regular moviegoers) touting the Mel Gibson movie "The Patriot." "Using actors, real people or employees as spokespeople is not unique to the entertainment business, is not specific to Sony Pictures Entertainment and is not something that is practiced only by me," Columbia's executive vice president of creative advertising, Dana Precious, said in a statement. "That said, perhaps this is a time for all of us in the business of marketing to review the practices that have become an industry standard and to rethink and redraw some boundaries."