Friday, October 08, 2004

News: 459 Net song-swappers sued

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 07, 2004 09:45:25 PM

LONDON: The piracy-battered music industry said on Thursday it will sueBritish, French and Austrian music fans for the first time as it intensifies its legal crackdown on Internet song-swappers.

The drive singles out users of popular file-sharing networks Kazaa, eDonkey, and Gnutella where Internet users can download and exchange songs for free.

Trade group the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) said it filed 459 criminal and civil lawsuits against some of the most prolific users of Internet file-sharing networks in the UK, France and Denmark, with a second wave of law suits in Germany, Italy and Denmark. The suits were filed on behalf of some of the largest music labels, including EMI, Warner Music and Universal Music.

Rather than going for people simply downloading songs for their own use, they specifically target "uploaders" or those who share their music collection with others, thus creating a vast market in free tunes.

"We are taking this action as a last resort and we are doing it after a very long public awareness campaign," said IFPI chairman Jay Berman."We have spent more than a year discussing the damage illegal file-sharingis doing to the music industry, including countless warnings of the legal consequences. Now, finally, we are at the point where the law has to be enforced.

"People who love music should buy it online and not swap files illegally," he added. The IFPI warned more countries will be added to the dragnet in coming months. To date, the music industry has announced lawsuits against over 5,700 individuals in the United States since September, 2003, and 650 in Europe since March this year.

Industry officials called the first wave of lawsuits a successful deterrent, pointing to a 20 per cent decline in usage of Kazaa since January. In Britain, music officials said that as part of a new "rolling programme of legal actions", they will launch 28 civil court cases against British uploaders.

Criminal and civil court cases are being filed against 50 alleged uploader sin France, 100 in Austria, 174 in Denmark, and 100 in Germany. In Italy, home to one of the toughest copyright protection laws in the world, police have raided the premises of seven large-scale file-sharers. The music industry is determined to woo back music fans from free-filesharing networks to stem declines in CD sales and support fledgling download services such as Apple Computer's iTunes and Sony Connect.