IFPI Warns of More Legal Action Against Euro File Sharers

The IFPI is promising "more legal actions" against alleged illegal file-sharers. Sweden, the United Kingdom and France are the next territories lined up for action in Europe by the international trade

LONDON -- The IFPI is promising "more legal actions" against alleged illegal file-sharers.

Sweden, the United Kingdom and France are the next territories lined up for action in Europe by the international trade body. All three countries have started campaigns to warn alleged file-sharers about the possibility of litigation.

On March 30, the IFPI announced the first cases in its international campaign against file-sharers, with more than 200 criminal and civil actions filed in Denmark, Germany and Italy.

"On the strength of the developments in Denmark, Germany and Italy, we can confirm that there will be more legal actions in other countries in the near future," says IFPI chairman/CEO Jay Berman in a statement.

The London-based organization announced June 8 that several "serial" illegal file-sharers have agreed to settle out of court and pay compensation fines for copyright infringement.

"The message is definitely getting out there -- litigation works," says IFPI general counsel/executive director Allen Dixon. "Litigation is working in deterring people from engaging in this activity. These penalties are for people who settled because they had done something wrong and agreed to pay."

Denmark has seen the biggest response to legal threats. More than 17 people have paid or agreed to pay penalties of about 3,000 euros ($3,696) each. Another 23 are negotiating payments. A new round of cases was brought June 8 against 24 more suspects.

In Germany, a 23-year-old who was nabbed with 6,000 MP3 music files on his PC and 70 CDs made from illegal downloads is paying a fine of 8,000 euros ($9,856). A 57-year-old Stuttgart teacher will have to pay a similar penalty after facing copyright-infringement charges.

Charles Law, a partner specializing in music at London firm Denton Wilde Sapte, comments, "The fact that they are willing to pay means they must have been pretty active in their (illegal) download activities to be fined that amount."

Dixon says the fines imposed in Europe are similar to those being charged in the United States by the Recording Industry Assn. of America.

Penalties are based on how many music files the pirate has been offering and how many times the files have been copied online. All fines paid are redistributed to cover the litigation expenses and then to copyright organizations and rights holders.

The IFPI reports that the number of illegally shared music files internationally has fallen 27% to 800 million from 1.1 billion a year ago, and the number of illegal files on P2P services fell 30% to 700 million during the same period.

"In Italy," says Dixon, "we're seeing a decline in particular kinds of P2P, especially those using WinMX and OpenNap. At the beginning of the year, there were about 60 WinMX and OpenNap servers trading millions of files. Now, the Italians (regulators) have closed down 58 of the 60."

Italy's public prosecutor has charged 30 people with copyright violations, with trials expected later this year.

In France, trade body SNEP has received the support of the government in its campaign against illegal file-sharing. Representatives from SNEP met last week with minister of industry Patrick Devedjian, who confirmed that in collaboration with his colleague in charge of culture, Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres, he will set up a national plan against piracy.

Announced on May 19, the French government's "Action Plan" will target illegal uploading and downloading through education, promotion of legal download services and legal action against alleged pirates.

In the United Kingdom, trade organization the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) on March 26 launched an instant-messaging campaign telling users of P2P services that they face legal action.

"We have sent 175,000 instant-message warnings to U.K. uploaders," says BPI chairman Peter Jamieson in a statement. "Nobody tempted to use these networks should claim ignorance of the law. Unauthorized file-sharing is illegal."