[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Tuesday, 30 March, 2004, 11:05 GMT 12:05 UK
Europe's song-swappers face court
Computer monitor showing Beyonce and Prince
Almost 2,000 downloaders in the US have already been sued
The music industry is to take legal action against 247 online song-swappers across Europe in the biggest crackdown against music piracy outside the US.

The International Federation for the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) has said it will pursue serious offenders across the continent through the court system.

They have been targeted for illegally distributing hundreds of music tracks using file-sharing technology.

UK music firms have already threatened court action against song-swappers.

The first wave of legal actions will affect Germany, Italy, Denmark and Canada, and will be implemented according to each country's law.

People are at real risk of being sued or prosecuted if they continue to rip off those who make music
Jay Berman, IFPI chairman

In Italy, 30 people have already been charged with copyright infringement, while computers and files have been seized as evidence.

In Denmark, 120 people have been sent civil demands asking them to stop illegal file-sharing and pay compensation - or face legal action.

An IFPI spokeswoman told BBC News Online that no British lawsuits are being enacted at this time, but this would certainly be a "possibility" in the future.

The move is the latest in the organisation's campaign to persuade online music-swappers that they can obtain music legally.

The IFPI has spent the last year sending 21 million warning messages to people using unauthorised software to share files.

Record industry warning message on Kazaa
UK illegal file swappers are now being greeted with this warning

IFPI chairman Jay Berman has said that they will prosecute or sue song-swappers who ignore the possibility of downloading music legally.

"Ultimately we have learned that education alone is not sufficient, and some people persist because, like shop-lifters, they think they can get away with it," said Mr Berman.

Illegal song-swapping is a major factor blamed for a 7% global downturn in record sales in 2002, while the 2003 downturn is expected to be sharper.

But the IFPI commissioned a five-country survey which revealed that 65% of people are aware that file-sharing copyrighted music is illegal.

Legal access

And more than 600,000 computer users across Europe are said to be legally accessing a large stock of music.

The British Phonographic Industry (BPI) last week announced it was prepared to pursue persistent illegal song-swappers through the courts, while warning messages to fraudulent users have started appearing.

The US has led the way in taking legal action against illegal music swappers, with more than 2,000 pursued to date.

The BBC's Quentin Sommerville
"A few simple clicks and you could end up with thousands of pounds in fines"


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific