Move part of a worldwide effort.

Hong Kong's music industry Wednesday (Oct. 18) launched a second wave of lawsuits against suspected copyright infringers. The Hong Kong branch of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) said it lodged suits against 37 suspects who allegedly uploaded up to 5,000 copyrighted songs on the WinAmpX peer-to-peer network.

The action is part of a worldwide effort by the London-based industry group that has targeted 8,000 illegal file sharers across 17 countries.

Hong Kong federation CEO Ricky Fung said the IFPI had stepped up its campaign after a first wave of prosecutions launched in November last year had failed to curtail infringers.

"Although more people are aware of the problems, this hasn't stopped them," Fung said. "We have seen that rampant file exchange has continued on different platforms."

The civil suits demand suspected infringers cease their activities and settle for up to 33,000 Hong Kong dollars ($4,200 US dollars), up on the 24,000 dollars claimed in last year's cases.

In that first wave of legal claims, 18 individuals were pursued after a landmark court ruling forced four Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to hand over the identities of file sharers. The IFPI won out of court settlements from 15 of them and the other three cases are still in the courts.

Fung says illegal downloading costs the Hong Kong music industry a billion dollars a year and so far this year has caused a 16-percent slump in CD sales -- the worst ever.

Exacerbating the problem, he says, has been the industry's inability to find a viable online file sales model.

"We only achieve 4-5% of sales online -- whereas the global average is 20%," Fung said. "Something is very wrong."

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