A German network technician faces criminal prosecution and a five-figure damages bill for allegedly running the country's biggest offering of illegal music downloads.

A German network technician faces criminal prosecution and a five-figure damages bill for allegedly running the country's biggest offering of illegal music downloads.

Local police arrested the 56-year-old man in the southern city of Nuremberg at the end of last week. It is alleged that he was responsible for the "Lupodata" server, which contained an estimated 60,000 music titles.

"Germany's most extensive downloadable server of illicit music files has been brought down," says Gerd Gebhardt, chairman of domestic labels body BPW.

Two PCs with a total of twelve hard discs were seized in the operation. Police confiscated roughly 4,000 digitalized albums of material by such artists as Celine Dion, Joe Cocker, Norah Jones, Phil Collins, Santana and David Bowie.

The server was configured to use the File Transfer Protocol (FTP), which allows large volumes of data to be transmitted. "Anyone offering the music content for downloading by third parties is acting in contravention of the law," warned Gebhardt.

The German record industry claims that illegal downloading and CD burning led to a decline of almost 20% in the value of recorded music shipments during 2003.

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