The IFPI today (March 30) initiated legal proceedings against file-sharers in Denmark, Germany, Italy and Canada. Under the first round of suits, 247 individuals will be notified that they face legal

The IFPI today (March 30) initiated legal proceedings against file-sharers in Denmark, Germany, Italy and Canada.

Under the first round of suits, 247 individuals will be notified that they face legal action for illegally sharing copyrighted music over the Internet.

In Denmark, more than 120 people are being sent letters asking them to either stop illegal file sharing and pay compensation, or face legal action. In Germany, 68 individuals have been reported to law-enforcement authorities pursuant to criminal complaints for alleged peer-to-peer infringement. In Italy, 30 individuals face copyright-infringement claims; in Canada, there are 29.

IFPI chairman/CEO Jay Berman tells Billboard.biz the move is in line with the actions taken in the United States by the RIAA. "Legal action was contemplated from the very beginning. It is not a U.S.-only, action because this is not a U.S.-only problem," says Berman.

He says the primary targets of the suits are major offenders -- "the small number of people who are making large amounts of files available. Our criteria is the number of files made available. We don't screen who they are before taking action."

Asked if he fears a media backlash -- as occurred in the United States when a 12-year-old became the target of an RIAA suit -- Berman says, "There is no fundamental difference between a 12-year-old who is shoplifting and a 12-year-old who makes 20,000 music files available. Whoever you are, you have to face the consequence of your acts."

Berman adds that in most cases, legal action will have been preceded by instant-messaging warning users that they are sharing illegal files. "I cannot say for sure that they all received instant messages, but virtually all of them have been exposed to messages," he says.

At the end of January, the IFPI presented its "Online Music Report 2004," which concluded that lawsuits against persistent online infringers have proved highly effective when cooperation and public awareness fail to reduce unauthorized online music activities. He warned then that the IFPI and its national groups would soon adopt legal tactics against individual file-sharers.

Berman -- who says the legal campaign was a long process, partly due to differing laws in each country -- does not rule out the possibility of actions in other territories in the near future.