Music Industry Targets Workplace Downloaders

The recording industry directed its anti-piracy campaign at large companies in the U.S., Europe, and Asia today (Feb. 13), warning them that employees are illegally downloading music on company time.

The recording industry directed its anti-piracy campaign at large companies in the U.S., Europe, and Asia today (Feb. 13), warning them that employees are illegally downloading music on company time. The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), a global trade group representing the major music labels, said it had begun issuing brochures to thousands of companies spelling out the legal and technological dangers of giving employees access to online file-sharing networks.

"We were surprised to see that peer-to-peer services are being accessed by a lot of companies' computer networks," IFPI general counsel Allen Dixon said. The IFPI blames peer-to-peer networks for part of the decline in recorded music sales over the past two years. Online file-sharing networks such as KaZaA and Morpheus attract millions of consumers daily who swap all manner of music, film, and software.

Corporate computers tend to be connected to high-speed networks and have ample storage space, two essentials for downloading large files. IT experts warn that such connections can greatly slow network speeds and leave a company's computer networks vulnerable to viruses and other digital intrusions.

In addition to technological risks, unauthorized copying is illegal in many countries. Threat of a copyright-infringement law suit, the IFPI hopes, will motivate corporations to ban employee access to such networks.

Last month, IFPI chairman Jay Berman said in a keynote address at the annual Midem music conference that the industry intended to beef up its fight against online piracy this year through education initiatives, lobbying efforts, and offering more compelling commercial download services.

Commercial alternatives to KaZaA have been a weak competitor to the free file-sharing networks, particularly because major labels have released a relatively small portion of their repertoire to the industry-backed Web services.

Earlier this week, Italian Internet service provider Tiscali began offering customers free music downloads in an effort to jumpstart its commercial music download service. Today, Listen.com slashed the price of tracks from its Rhapsody service via a promotion with Terra Lycos. Under the plan, Rhapsody subscribers will be able to access and burn tracks for 49 cents each. Listen, which usually charges 99 cents apiece, says this is the lowest price ever for legal digital tracks from major record companies.


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