(CelebrityAccess MediaWire) — The music industry has made a major escalation of its campaign against illegal file-sharing, unveiling 459 legal actions against music "uploaders" and for the first time targeting Europe's two largest music markets, the UK and France.
Announcing the actions on behalf of the recording industry worldwide, IFPI warned that the rolling campaign will be further stepped up and extended into new countries in the coming months. It called on music fans to buy their music online legitimately, rather than risk the legal consequences of illegal file-sharing. There are now over 100 legal online music sites in Europe offering a total of over one million music tracks.
The October 7 action is the largest single wave of lawsuits to be announced outside the USA since the industry in Europe started bringing litigation against illegal file-sharing in March 2004. It brings the total number of cases so far launched in Europe to more than 650 in six countries.
Besides the UK and France, new actions are being brought in Italy, Denmark and Germany, and the campaign is also extending for the first time to Austria.
The cases, a combination of criminal and civil suits, are aimed at "uploaders" – people charged with putting hundreds of copyrighted songs on to internet file-sharing networks and offering them to thousands or millions of people world-wide without permission from the copyright owners. The defendants are likely to face compensation payments averaging several thousand euros.
In countries where cases have already been settled, identified uploaders are already paying compensation. As a result of actions brought in March, so far more than 80 people in Germany and Denmark have handed over individual payments of up to 13,000 euros.
Uploaders on all major unauthorized file-sharing services are covered by the October 7 actions. The largest such service is KaZaA, which, since the start of industry litigation, has already seen its user numbers fall. There are 2.4 million simultaneous users on KaZaA, 20% less than there were in January.
Others targeted in the present actions include users of the EDonkey/eMule, Gnutella, WinMx, OpenNap and DirectConnect services. This is a warning that no illegal uploaders are immune from legal action, whichever service they are using.
The lawsuits are brought by IFPI-affiliated industry associations on behalf of record companies in each of the six countries. Individuals are charged with acting illegally by making copyrighted music available on the internet without the permission of the copyright holder. This is against the law throughout Europe and internationally.
A total of 100 cases are being launched in Austria, 174 in Denmark, 50 in France, 100 in Germany, 7 in Italy and 28 in the UK. In March a first wave of 247 cases was launched in Europe and Canada. In the US over 5,700 actions have been brought in the last year.
IFPI Chairman and CEO Jay Berman said: "We are taking this action as a last resort and we are doing it after a very long public awareness campaign. We have spent more than a year discussing the damage illegal file-sharing is doing to the music industry, including countless warnings of the legal consequences. We have been to the networks to ask them to stop the illegal activity taking place on their services, and we have gone straight to the illegal file-sharers with millions of instant messages."
"Now, finally, we are at the point where the law has to be enforced. There is quite simply no longer any excuse for illegally file-sharing. People who love music should buy it online and not swap files illegally. If they do continue to engage in illegal music file-sharing they are in effect engaged in copyright theft, and may therefore have to face the legal consequences".
Breakdown of the cases:
* United Kingdom: The UK record industry confirmed that is it launching a rolling program of legal actions against major alleged illegal file-sharers for the first time. The BPI is launching court cases against 28 individuals. The BPI alleges that they were engaged in copying and making available large numbers of music tracks on the internet in breach of copyright. They will face civil action for an injunction and damages.
* France: Criminal complaints and civil court cases are being filed against 50 major uploaders of music in France as the first legal actions in an ongoing campaign to combat illegal file sharing. French anti-piracy organization SCPP is pursuing court proceedings that allow fines and other criminal sanctions, or civil remedies including termination of the internet account of an infringer.
* Austria: IFPI Austria will be filing 100 criminal and civil cases against people found to have been offering large numbers of music files on peer-to-peer file sharing services without authorization. Austrian proceedings permit a range of remedies and penalties, including criminal raids and fines, as well as civil compensation and injunctions.
* Denmark: IFPI Denmark is sending civil demand letters to approximately 174 more alleged illegal music file-sharers, bringing the total number of such legal claims launched in Denmark to nearly 300. So far 67 individuals in Denmark (representing approximately 40% of those targeted in the previous wave) have already either paid or agreed to pay compensation averaging a few thousand euros each – one as high as €13,000.
* Germany: IFPI Germany has filed 100 additional criminal complaints against individuals alleged to be engaged in illegal file sharing of music. This brings to 168 the number of such cases launched. To date, 10 of the earlier defendants have been raided, 5 have had criminal judgments or fines imposed on them, and 16 have made civil settlement payments from 2.000 to 10.000 euros (averaging 4,000 Euros).
* Italy: Police have raided seven more individuals on suspicion of copyright infringement in connection with large-scale file sharing of music, with more actions expected in the coming weeks. This follows similar criminal cases brought against 30 individuals in March, which are still pending before the courts. Individuals found guilty are subject to fines expected in the range of 5,000 to 25,000 Euros with additional civil compensation possible.
* United States: Since September 2003, the US recording industry has brought copyright infringement lawsuits against over 5,700 alleged illegal file sharers. There have been hundreds of settlements to date, averaging several thousand US dollars each.
IFPI is also publishing a number of Fact Sheets on the impact of illegal file-sharing on music sales; the impact of the industry's litigation programme to date; the advance of the legitimate online music market; and the information campaigns conducted by the recording industry.
*FPI has compiled a comprehensive collection of third party research which proves overwhelmingly that illegal file-sharing has contributed to the decline in global music sales – down US$6 billion in the last five years. All reputable peer-commended studies conclude that illegal song-swapping depresses music sales.
*In the last year record companies have made a vast bulk of their repertoire available online, and there are now over 100 legal music online sites in Europe compared to only 20 one year ago. Between 450,000 and 1 million songs are available in different European countries, and 4 million Europeans have already paid for online music. –Bob Grossweiner and Jane Cohen