Wednesday, October 18, 2006
Music Companies Sue 8,000 More in Anti-Sharing Fight
Trade Group Files Cases in 17 Nations

By Jane Wardell
The Associated Press
Wednesday, October 18, 2006; D10

LONDON, Oct. 17 -- The international record industry filed thousands more lawsuits around the world Tuesday against people it accuses of illegally sharing digital music.

The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry filed 8,000 cases in 17 countries, including its first in South America and Eastern Europe.

The lawsuits, which are aimed at "uploaders," include criminal and civil cases. Uploaders have put hundreds or thousands of copyrighted songs onto Internet file-sharing networks and offered them to millions of people worldwide without permission from the copyright owners.

The industry contends that such file-sharing has cost it billions of dollars in lost revenue.

The London federation, which represents 1,450 record companies around the world, said many of the people targeted are the parents of children who shared music files.

The music industry has been criticized for targeting individual Internet users in its legal warfare against piracy instead of the Internet service providers that host file-swapping sites. The ISPs are harder to pursue legally because they can claim to have no knowledge of piracy occurring on their networks.

"Around the world many people have already paid a heavy price for their illegal file-sharing," said John Kennedy, chairman of the federation. "They all thought they were unlikely to be caught, but teachers, postal workers, . . . scientists and people in a host of other occupations, as well as parents, have ended up having to dig deeply into their pockets.

"There is no excuse. People should understand that they can be caught whatever network they are using."

Legal action was extended for the first time to Brazil, where the industry federation said more than 1 billion music tracks were illegally downloaded last year and where record company revenue fell to $395 million last year from $724.7 million in 2000. Lawsuits were also filed for the first time in Mexico and Poland.

The federation said more than 2,300 people have been fined or paid compensation averaging at nearly $3,100.

The countries included in the new wave of lawsuits include Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Singapore and Switzerland.

The federation said it targeted uploaders using major unauthorized services, including BitTorrent, eDonkey, DirectConnect, Gnutella, LimeWire, SoulSeek and WinMX.

The group added that it was heartened by court judgments around the world in recent months that it said establish the liability of such operators for copyright infringement that they facilitate or promote and from which they benefit.