IFPI and the recording industry associations in Denmark, Germany, Italy and Canada today announced the first wave of international lawsuits charging individuals with illegally file-sharing copyrighted music.
A total of 247 alleged illegal file-sharers face legal action in a move that steps up the industry's international campaign against online copyright theft. Further waves of lawsuits against major offenders will be launched in different countries in the coming months.
The legal actions, following similar successful actions in United States, charge the individuals with illegally making available hundreds of music tracks for copying, transmission and distribution via file-sharing services.
IFPI, representing the recording industry worldwide, made it clear that the legal actions come only after a sustained educational effort by the music industry and as record companies are making available the bulk of their music for downloading legally.
A recent independent five-country survey commissioned by IFPI shows more than 65% of people know that file-sharing copyrighted music is illegal.
More than 600,000 consumers in Europe alone are now accessing a large catalogue of 300,000 tracks that are available from 50 legal online sites.
Jay Berman, Chairman and CEO of IFPI.
said: "Today's announcement should come as no surprise. Over the past year the record industry has been extremely active internationally and locally, educating the public about the huge damage being done by illegal file-sharing, explaining the laws and promoting all the sites where large catalogues of copyrighted music are available for consumers to access legitimately. "
"We have made it clear that file-sharing without the permission of the copyright holder is illegal, that it amounts to "file-stealing", and that it affect jobs and livelihoods across the whole industry.
Ultimately, though, we have learned that education alone is not sufficient, and that some people persist because, like shop-lifters, they think they can 'get away with it'. So we have decided that only the prospect of legal action is going to make those people rethink what they are doing."
"Today we are making it clear that we are totally prepared to enforce the law, and we will start actions against those people who are breaking it by uploading hundreds of music files on to the internet. We will not stand by while thousands of people involved in the creation of music see their careers and livelihoods destroyed. The message is that people are at a real risk of being sued or prosecuted if they continue to rip off those who make music.
Illegal file-sharing has been a major cause of the decline in global music sales in the last five years. This in turn has caused widespread cuts and job losses across the industry, affecting retailers, record companies and their artist rosters, recording studios, song writers, management companies, publishers and many others sectors, all of them economically dependent on copyrighted music.
Global sales of recorded music fell 7% in value in 2002. IFPI's global figures for 2003 have not yet been released, but it estimated that sales for the year will have been down by over 7%.
A number of third party surveys in major music markets have confirmed that illegal file-sharing directly depresses music purchases by consumers.
Other countries have stepped up their 'warning' campaigns to put illegal file-sharers of music on notice that if they continue with their activities they risk court action. Sweden is announcing today the launch of their instant messaging campaign to users of peer-to-peer networks, following a similar announcement by the UK on 25 March.
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