BPI, the organisation of the British Phonogram Industry, reports that 23 illegal file-sharers have paid settlements of up to £4,500 in settlement of copyright infringement claims brought on behalf of the organisation's members. The BPI proposes to bring 31 further actions against peer-to-peer file-sharers across the UK, spanning eight different filesharing networks (KaZaA, eDonkey, Grokster, Soulseek, DirectConnect, Limewire, Bearshare and Imesh). Said BPI Chairman Peter Jamieson:
“Unauthorised filesharing is against the law. It effectively steals the livelihood of musicians and the record companies who invest in them. We will not hesitate to protect the rights of our members and the artists they represent”.
BPI General Counsel Geoff Taylor added:
“We are determined to find people who illegally distribute music, whichever peer-to-peer network they use, and to make them compensate the artists and labels they are stealing from. These settlements show we can and we will enforce the law. No one should be in any doubt that we will continue to do so".

KaZaA - said to be "in sharp decline". Is this through fear
of legal action or the fashion for iPods?

The 23 settlements mentioned here arise out of the original 26 cases launched by the BPI in October 2004. Three cases are still in negotiation and legal action may follow. The settlements include internet users from all over the UK – 17 men and six women. The average settlement is more than £2,000 – which the BPI claims is more than a month’s salary for the average UK worker. Two illegal file-sharers are paying more than £4,000 each to settle their cases. BPI General Counsel Geoff Taylor explained,
“We have no desire to drag people through the courts. So we have attempted to reach fair settlements where we can. We hope people will now begin to get the message that the best way to avoid the risk of legal action and paying substantial compensation is to stop illegal filesharing and to buy music online, safely and legally, instead".
Although impressive developments in legal download services saw an estimated 9 million download sales in the UK in 2004, there are still millions of individuals in the UK who persist in trading files illegally. Said Taylor,
“If illegal filesharers think that they can avoid getting caught by staying away from the most popular networks like KaZaA, they’re wrong. We are going to continue bringing cases against people who distribute music illegally, whichever filesharing network they use, for as long as it’s necessary. Legitimate music services can only prosper if we continue to fight the theft of music on the internet".
The BPI’s action against illegal file-sharing in the UK is part of a global campaign by the record companies who invest in new music, seeking to turn the tide on internet piracy. The BPI says that research shows that illegal activity on the once most-popular filesharing network Fast Track – on which KaZaA runs – has plummeted, with the number of users in January 2005 down 45% from its peak in April 2003. While some more determined illegal file-sharers are migrating to other networks, the combination of superior legal services and the threat of legal action means that despite increasing broadband penetration, authorised services are growing at a faster rate than illegal services. With thousands of cases launched against the users of other illegal networks, illegal uploaders are learning that there is no place to hide; the number of eDonkey servers is down by 61%, BitTorrent servers and users are down 66% while the Direct Connect network has also seen a decline in the number of servers.

The IPKat, a terminal coward if ever there was one, has no intention of facing the wrath of the BPI. He has unplugged his computer and buried it in the garden, just to be sure he's safe. Merpel meanwhile just hopes they don't make it an infringement for her to borrow CDs from her friends ...

No place to hide here and here

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