Four illegal music uploaders have been handed fines totalling €12 million ($17 million) by Italian authorities. The fines follow a series of raids by officers in the "Guardia di finanza," or fiscal police, in the town of Melegnano, near Milan.

The raids formed part of "Operation Genux." Some 120,000 illegal files were uncovered, including material by Madonna and U2, plus works by domestic artists Vasco Rossi and Elisa. Illegal files of DVDs, software and video games were also seized.

The four uploaders, who are described as being between the ages of 30 and 45, also face criminal charges.

Operation Genux follows the cracking of the illegal P2P system "Discotheque", in which seven uploaders were handed fines in excess of €8.5 million ($12 million). The "Discotheque" raids took place in Brescia and Bergamo, which, like Melegnano, are in northern Italy. Traditionally, music piracy has been seen as a southern and central Italian phenomenon, with strong links to the mafia.

In a statement, Enzo Mazza, president of major label representative body FIMI and Italy's anti-piracy organization FPM; says: "These raids show that Internet piracy isn't about a bunch of youngsters downloading their favorite music. Instead it poses a serious threat to the new business model of on-line music."

FPM, estimates that Internet piracy caused the Italian music industry damage in the region of €70 million ($100 million) in 2006.

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