(CelebrityAccess MediaWire) —
The Irish Recorded Music Association, IRMA, has started legal action against "serial filesharers" in Ireland who illegally make copyrighted music available on the Internet. IRMA is seeking damages and injunctions against 17 individuals who have illegally uploaded hundreds or thousands of music tracks onto peer-to-peer filesharing networks.
As a first step, IRMA is asking Internet Service Providers to release the names of the individuals they have found to be abusing copyright on the Internet. The major filesharers subject to legal action include users of the filesharing network FastTrack–on which KaZaA runs–and the Gnutella network.
IRMA Director General Dick Doyle said, "This action is being taken against serial file sharers. The top six offenders have uploaded in excess of 2,000 illegal files which is equivalent to 200 albums. This is wholesale mass distribution and is effectively stealing the livelihood of the creators of music. When you consider that each of these individuals could be connected to up to 2 million others at any one time, you begin to appreciate the scale of the damage. We have been issuing warnings for 15 months now. It is time to take action – we are not accepting this situation anymore."
Massive illegal file-sharing is undermining the livelihoods of everyone in the creative chain involved in making music, from composers and music publishers to performers, musicians and record companies. Abuse of copyright on the Internet has contributed to a €28 million drop in music sales in Ireland between 2001 and 2004, a decline of 19%.
The current legal action comes after 15 months of educational initiatives to raise awareness of the cultural and economic damage done by illegal file-sharing. These initiatives have included educational brochures sent to colleges and businesses, an extensive radio campaign on national and local radio, countless media interviews and an informative website www.pro-music.org. Instant messages have also been sent to the computers of illegal filesharers worldwide warning them of the consequences if they continue breaking the law.
On behalf of the composers and publishers of music, Victor Finn, managing director of MCPS (Ireland) said, "We fully endorse the actions taken by IRMA today. All parties have been fully aware of their responsibilities for some time in this area. Unfortunately, not all have heeded the warnings given and they have made this action inevitable."
IRMA's announcement comes after a breakthrough year for legitimate online music services that are offering legal downloads to consumers. The current legal action is aimed at giving crucial breathing space to legal services and allowing them room to develop. There are five major legitimate services in Ireland: iTunes, Eircom Music Club, mycoke.com, vitaminic.com music club and wippit.co.uk.
The launch of legal actions in Ireland forms part of an announcement from the international recording industry that it is stepping up litigation against illegal filesharers internationally. IFPI, the organization representing the recording industry worldwide, has announced a total of 963 new actions launched in 11 countries in Europe and Asia. This brings the total number of cases against illegal filesharers to 11,552 worldwide. In Europe, 248 individuals, mostly men aged 25-35, have already paid average fines of €3,000.
The latest research suggests that the international legal campaign is already having an impact. Overall, the number of infringing music files on the Internet dropped from its peak of 1.1 billion in April 2003 to 870 million in January 2005, a drop of 21% despite a sharp rise in broadband penetration worldwide. KaZaa, which used to be the largest and most popular filesharing services, has seen its number of users drop by around 45% since the start of the warning and litigation campaign.
Éanna Casey, Chief Executive of Recorded Artists and Performers (R.A.A.P), said, "R.A.A.P fully endorses the actions outlined this morning by IRMA. Online music piracy is selfish, illegal and has a direct impact on the economic welfare of Recording Artists and Performers. No industry can be expected to allow illegal activities to continue unchallenged, the unauthorized uploading of copyrighted music is now being confronted and R.A.A.P. is committed to protecting its members' moral and economic rights." –Jane Cohen and Bob Grossweiner