Recording industry sues another 8,000 for file sharing

Stepping up its battle against online music piracy, the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry announced thousands of new lawsuits against those it suspects of illegal file-sharing.

The recording industry group has filed 8,000 new lawsuits in 17 countries, bringing the total number of suits it has filed outside the U.S. to 13,000, the IFPI announced Tuesday. That’s on top of about 18,000 lawsuits already filed in the U.S., said Alex Jacob, an IFPI spokesman in London.

The most recent lawsuits are against those suspected of uploading large numbers of music files to peer-to-peer networks such as BitTorrent, eDonkey and Limewire, according to IFPI. Pursuing such “mass uploaders” can be more effective than suing people who download a few individual tracks, Jacob said.

Many of the people sued were the parents of children suspected of illegal file-sharing, the IFPI said. Parents can be held liable in some countries for activity that takes place over the household Internet connection. The group also sued some cyber cafes that it said facilitated music piracy.

The suits, which are a mixture of civil and criminal actions, include the first cases brought by the IFPI in Brazil, Mexico and Poland. In Brazil, more than a billion songs were illegally downloaded last year, causing record company revenues in that country to halve over the past five years to US$394 million, according to the IFPI.

“Since the music sales have gone down at the same time that file-sharing has exploded, it seems logical that at least some of those sales were lost to illegal downloads,” Jacob said.

Of the cases outside the U.S., about 2,300 people have settled with the IFPI rather than face fines, with the average settlement at €2,420 (US$3,028), the IFPI said.

The music and film industries are pursuing a dual strategy to fight piracy, using both education and the threat of lawsuits to dissuade people from illegal downloads. Visitors to the former Web site of Grokster, which shut down last year after losing a case in front of the U.S. Supreme Court., now see a warning that their IP address has been logged. “Don’t think you can’t get caught. You are not anonymous,” the Web site says.

That sentiment was echoed in the IFPI’s statement Tuesday. “People should understand that they can be caught whatever network they are using,” IFPI Chairman John Kennedy said. “The next time a series of law suits are announced, you could be on the receiving end if you are an illegal file-sharer.”

The 8,000 new lawsuits were filed in Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Austria, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Iceland, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Switzerland, Hong Kong and Singapore.

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