The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry and national trade groups have launched legal cases against 963 individuals in 10 European countries and Japan, alleging that the defendants d


LONDON -- The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry and national trade groups have launched legal cases against 963 individuals in 10 European countries and Japan, alleging that the defendants downloaded or uploaded illegal music files from the Internet.

The IFPI announced the round of suits April 12 in Amsterdam in a joint presentation with local trade body Bescherming Rechten Entertainment Industrie Nederland (Brein).

IFPI chairman/CEO John Kennedy describes the action as "pretty important. It is the biggest wave of legal actions so far against Internet music file-sharers."

The IFPI says the new cases were brought against users of services that include the Kazaa network and Gnutella's Bearshare, Limewire, OpenNap, WinMX and Winny, as well as eDonkey, eMule, DirectConnect and BitTorrent.

According to the IFPI, a total of 11,552 similar cases have been filed globally, including 9,900 in the United States, where the Recording Industry Assn. of America launched its first legal action in 2003.

The new round of suits includes cases in four European countries that had not been targeted before -- the Netherlands, Finland, Ireland and Iceland -- as well as the first Asian country, Japan.

IFPI groups last year launched their first litigation against file-sharers in Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom.

Kennedy says "more and more countries are asking to be included in the plan." He believes it reflects a greater confidence from local industries that litigation is one of the most efficient way to combat what they see as one of the main sources of the decline in music sales. "When we started the process, people were very nervous about the reactions of local media, politicians and users, but it has proven to be the right thing to do. We had no alternative."

The IFPI revealed that a year after it first launched criminal and civil lawsuits against file-sharers in Europe, 217 people have paid fines or compensation averaging more than €3,000 ($3,894). Kennedy says settlements are part of the strategy. "Litigation is always a long and costly process, so settling saves money to everyone," he says.

Offenders are described as "predominantly city-dwelling men aged 20-35, in occupations from company directors to car salesmen and teachers to truck-drivers."

The IFPI warned that additional legal actions will follow in even more countries. In Spain and Sweden, two of the countries in Europe most affected by piracy, local trade groups have started instant-messaging campaigns, informing P2P users who appear to be distributing music illegally of the risks they face.

"We are here for the long run," says Kennedy.

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