The recorded music industry is stepping up its fight against illegal file-sharing by launching 459 legal actions against music "uploaders" throughout Europe.

The recorded music industry is stepping up its fight against illegal file-sharing by launching 459 legal actions against music "uploaders" throughout Europe.

A total of 100 cases are being launched in Austria, 174 in Denmark, 100 in Germany, 50 in France, 28 in the United Kingdom and seven in Italy.

International trade body the IFPI describes it as "the largest single wave of lawsuits to be announced outside the U.S."

The move, announced today (Oct. 7), brings the total number of cases so far launched in Europe to more than 650 in six countries.

Legal procedures against serial file-sharers have started for the first time in France and Great Britain. Legal action is instigated by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI), and in France by trade body SNEP with collecting society SCPP.

Cases have already been brought in Italy, Denmark and Germany, and the campaign is also extending for the first time to Austria.

Legal action in the United Kingdom and France follows awareness campaigns in both countries warning P2P users of the consequences of illegal downloading activity.

The IFPI says the cases, a combination of criminal and civil suits, are aimed at "uploaders who put hundreds of copyrighted songs onto file-sharing networks and offer them to P2P users without authorization from the copyright owners." The trade body adds that the defendants are "likely to face compensation payments averaging several thousand euros.

"We are taking this action as a last resort and we are doing it after a very long public awareness campaign," says IFPI chairman/CEO Jay Berman. "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."

He continued, "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."

BPI chairman Peter Jamieson commented in a statement: "We have been warning for months that unauthorized file-sharing is illegal. These are not people casually downloading the odd track. They are uploading music on a massive scale, effectively stealing the livelihoods of thousands of artists and the people who invest in them."

The British government welcomed the initiative. "The government supports the principle of proportionate legal action against the worst offending uploaders," comments arts minister Estelle Morris. "I hope it will stop in their tracks the habitual offender who uploads to make a quick buck out of other people's talent."

The reaction from the United States is similarly supportive. "With all the spyware, adware, viruses, loss of privacy, unwanted pornography and the risk of getting caught for copyright infringement, people's behavior and attitudes toward illegal file-sharing are already changing. Today's announcement will only help further deliver that message," comments RIAA president Cary Sherman.