Officers with Italy's fiscal police, the Guardia di Finanza, have handed out fines totalling €8.5 million ($12.1 million) to the seven principal "uploaders" in a nationwide illegal P2P file-sharing network known as "Discotequezone."

Under Italian law, the culprits can receive a 60% discount on their fines if they pay the Guardia within 60 days. All seven also face criminal trials which, according to a spokesperson for FPM, should begin within the next few months. However, under Italy's convoluted appeals procedures, it could take up to four years to reach a sentence.

The fines were handed out on Friday (Sept. 28), some weeks after the completion of a major investigation, but only announced today. The operation, which was based in the northern city of Bergamo, was conducted in tandem with the authorities in nearby Brescia and the technical support of music industry anti-piracy organisation FPM.

Five servers and two sites were also closed down. The sites provided illegal access to music files, films and software, while the computer hard disks of two of the uploaders were found to contain material depicting violent scenes of child abuse.

According to FIMI and FPM president Enzo Mazza: "The massive fines should provide a major deterrent to illegal operators. This is extremely important at a time when the digital market is undergoing such a delicate phase of development."