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Last Updated: Thursday, 7 October 2004, 13:19 GMT 14:19 UK
UK music to sue online 'pirates'
Head of the IFPI Jay Berman says piracy stifles new talent
The British music industry is to sue 28 internet users it says are illegally swapping music online.

The British Phonographic Industry (BPI) says it is targeting "major uploaders" - those who make music available to share free with others.

Music file-sharers have been blamed for a decline in world-wide CD sales.

The BPI's actions follow that of its US counterpart which is already suing those it calls the worst offenders. It says more cases are expected to come.

A further 459 alleged file-sharers across Europe now face legal action, the IFPI global music industry body said on Thursday, with France and Austria also targeted for the first time.

Woman listening to music on the internet

US record companies have issued more than 5,700 lawsuits from alleged file-sharers, with many settling out of court.

At the moment the BPI does not know the names of the 28 people it is going after, but is asking the courts to force internet service providers to hand over their personal information.

The file-sharers use software such as Kazaa, Grokster, Imesh, Bearshare and WinMX to trade music.

Plenty of warning

There was an outcry when a 12-year-old girl from New York was served with a lawsuit by the US industry, which was eventually settled by her mother.

The same could yet happen in the UK.

Teenage music fans respond to threat of prosecution

"We don't screen for political correctness. We go on the basis of IP addresses. We do not know who it is, it is based on their internet activity," said IFPI chairman Jay Berman.

IP addresses are used to identify a particular machine using the internet at any one time.

BPI chairman Peter Jamieson said: "We have been warning for months that unauthorised file-sharing is illegal. These are not people casually downloading the odd track.

"They are uploading music on a massive scale, effectively stealing the livelihoods of thousands of artists and the people who invest in them."

Co-ordinated effort

The 28 people being sued in the UK should find out in the coming few weeks who they are, said BPI general counsel Geoff Taylor.

Once they have been served with the legal action they will be given the chance to settle out of court. If they do not the BPI will seek damages and an injunction to stop them using file-sharing services.

5,700 in the US
300 in Denmark
168 in Germany
50 in France
100 in Austria
Source: IFPI
The BPI warned in March it would take legal action against users of peer-to-peer music services, and has sent more than 350,000 internet message to desktops saying the song-swapping sites they were using were being watched.

The BPI believes a hardcore 15% of file-sharers are responsible for 75% of all illegal music downloading.

'Hit business'

One of the main objectives in the BPI and IFPI campaign is to protect investment in new talent.

"One thing that has not changed about the recording business is that it is a hit business," said Mr Berman.

"Only one in 10 records actually makes money, that one track supports the investment in a new band, new artist or new career. It's actually that one hit that you will find most often shared illegally.

The industry has ripped us off for years so perhaps this is a fair retribution
Rob Watson, Winchester, Hampshire

But media analyst Simon Dyson, of the Informa Group, said it could be difficult to change the habits of a whole generation.

"There are some kids that have probably never bought a CD," he told BBC One's Breakfast programme.

"They started downloading when they were 11 or 12 and they have never bought a CD. It's going to be a problem for the BPI to turn those around."

Why the UK music industry has decided to act

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