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The IFPI has unveiled the biggest escalation yet in its campaign against illegal internet file-sharing, announcing over 2,100 new legal cases against individuals and extending the actions to five new countries in Europe, Asia and – for the first time – South America. File-sharers in Sweden, Switzerland, Argentina, Hong Kong and Singapore are for the first time at risk of criminal penalties and payment of damages in an international campaign that has already seen thousands of people – the majority of them young men between the ages of 20 and 30 – pay sums of US$3,000 or more for uploading copyrighted music on peer-to-peer networks (p2p). This latest wave of cases, covering actions launched today or brought in recent months, takes the total number of legal actions against uploaders to over 3,800 in 16 countries outside the US.  This is the fourth wave since the international campaign began in March 2004, and it targets users of all the major unauthorised p2p networks, including FastTrack (Kazaa), Gnutella (BearShare), eDonkey, DirectConnect, BitTorrent, WinMX, and SoulSeek. The move comes just one week after the landmark settlement between the p2p service Grokster and the US music industry. It also follows a series of court rulings in the last few months which firmly establish that unauthorised p2p services, as well as their users, can be held liable for music piracy.  There have been key judgments in three continents since June – against Grokster in the US, Kazaa in Australia, Soribada in Korea and Kuro in Taiwan. Announcing the latest wave of actions at a press conference in Stockholm today, IFPI Chairman and CEO John Kennedy said:  “This is a significant escalation of our enforcement actions against people who are uploading and distributing copyrighted music on p2p networks. For the first time there will be financial and criminal sanctions for this activity in countries in South East Asia and Latin America. This reflects the sharply rising levels of internet piracy in those regions. The message today is that, from Sweden to Hong Kong and from Singapore to Argentina, there are no havens for the theft of music on the internet” adding “in the last two years, by extending these legal actions to a total of 17 countries, the music industry has helped change the perception of music on the internet. Thousands of people – mostly internet-savvy men in their twenties or thirties – have learnt to their cost the legal and financial risks involved in file-sharing copyrighted music in large quantities.  Some countries, such as Sweden, have to some extent been perceived as immune from the laws affecting everyone else – today we are making it clear that copyright laws will be enforced against illegal file-sharing in those countries just as elsewhere”. Kennedy added that “Today there is simply no excuse to steal music on the internet instead of buying music legally. There are 2 million tracks available on over 300 sites across the world where consumers can download safely and legally and buy, subscribe to or listen to online music at fantastic value. The music industry is making a vast catalogue of music available to consumers online, but at the same time we are determined to protect our music from copyright theft.” The legal actions follow a sustained education campaign by the music sector. Over 52 million instant messages have been sent directly to illegal music file-sharers in 17 countries. A campaign launched by leading charity Childnet International aimed at educating parents about file-sharing and downloading music has been distributed in schools and retailers around the world. A Copyright Security Guide for companies and governments has been mailed to organisations in six countries. Free software, Digital File Check, that helps people enjoy music on their computer safely and legally (go to www.ifpi.org) was launched initially in 6 countries in September. The IFPI say that The deterrence campaign has helped to contain internet piracy in the face of a dramatic expansion of broadband uptake. The number of illegal music files on the internet rose slightly to around 900 million in the first half of 2005, while broadband penetration globally rose 17%. The actions are helping to encourage the development of the legitimate digital music business. Legal downloads in the first half of 2005 were triple the level of the same period a year earlier, at 186 million tracks.  That excludes sales of music on mobile phones and music subscription services, which are expected to see sharp growth over the next year.

Source IFPI press release  www.ifpi.org