- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Record labels in Europe and Canada yesterday followed in the footsteps of the U.S. music industry and sued hundreds of people suspected of making music available on the Internet.

The London-based International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) said 247 persons are being sued in Canada, Denmark, Germany and Italy.

It is the first wave of lawsuits against people outside the United State suspected of violating copyright law by swapping song files on file-sharing networks.

“This is the start of an international campaign against online copyright theft. No one should be surprised by this action or that there is more to come,” IFPI President Jay Berman said in a conference call.

The Recording Industry Association of America began targeting suspected U.S. file sharers last year and has filed suits against nearly 2,000 people.

NPD Music, a Long Island, N.Y., marketing information firm that measures consumer behavior, said the number of U.S. households downloading at least one song from a file-sharing network dropped 10 percent from January to February.

“That’s a big drop,” NPD Music President Russ Crupnick said.

It’s also an indication the legal dragnet by U.S. record labels is working, and record labels in Europe and Canada are hoping for similar results.

“We decided litigation was probably our only option to bring attention to the consequences of file sharing. We believe it will have an effect,” said Brian Robertson, president of the Canadian Recording Industry Association, a member of the IFPI.

Canadian music industry revenue has fallen from $1.4 billion in 1999 to $900 million.

In Denmark, at least 120 persons are being sent letters asking them to stop illegal file sharing and pay compensation or face legal action.

In Germany, 68 persons were reported to law-enforcement authorities; 30 persons were charged with copyright infringement in Italy.

In Canada, 29 persons are facing copyright infringement charges and the Canadian Recording Industry Association has asked the Federal Court of Canada to force five Internet service providers to identify those suspected of sharing music files.

A person in Denmark had 54,000 song files on a computer, the most among all the suspects caught in the new global effort to fight music piracy.

The IFPI said file sharing was responsible for a 7 percent decline in global music sales in 2002, the most recent year for which statistics are available. The group said global sales likely fell by more than 7 percent last year.

Allen Dixon, general counsel for the international recording industry coordinating the lawsuits in Canada and Europe, said music sales are down even more in the four countries where new legal efforts are under way.

Retail sales have fallen by almost 30 percent in Canada over the past five years, by 30 percent in Germany in three years and by 50 percent in Denmark in three years, the IFPI said. Music sales in Italy fell by $41.1 million from 2001 to 2003.

While the group representing record labels in Europe and Canada tries to cut off access to file-sharing networks, it leaves consumers with few options.

“The one criticism you can make of this action [by the IFPI] is that it’s being done at a time when there aren’t many viable options for consumers” who want to buy music from legitimate sites, said Phil Leigh of Inside Digital Media Inc.

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