European P2P network users targeted in piracy clamp down

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Illegal peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharers across the world faced a fresh wave of legal actions yesterday as the recording industry announced an escalation of its campaign against digital music piracy. The latest actions come with a new warning to parents to check what their children are doing online, as they could face financial penalties if their children access illegal material.

The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) and its affiliate national bodies announced nearly 2,000 new legal cases against individuals uploading "large amounts" of copyrighted music.

The actions target users of all the major unauthorised P2P networks, including FastTrack (Kazaa), Gnutella (BearShare), eDonkey, DirectConnect, BitTorrent, Limewire, WinMX and SoulSeek.

The actions are being launched in Austria, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Hong Kong SAR, Iceland, Italy, Portugal, Sweden and Switzerland.

IFPI announced that it is bringing actions in Portugal for the first time. Sales of physical music in Portugal have slumped by 40 percent in the last four years. Much of this is accounted for by the phenomenal rise in illegal file-sharing, especially among college students.

"This is a significant escalation in our worldwide campaign against illegal file-sharing," said John Kennedy, the chairman and chief executive of IFPI. "This campaign started in major music markets where sales were falling sharply; now these legal actions have spread to smaller markets in countries like Portugal where it is not an exaggeration to say the future of the whole national market, and local artists, is at stake."

The organization went on to point out that, in a development that could be mirrored in other E.U. countries, thousands of file-sharers in Denmark could now find their online connections cut off by their internet service providers. The ruling follows more than 130 injunctions taken out in France that led to internet users who were illegally file-sharing being disconnected by their ISPs.

In Italy, a series of raids against individual file-sharers and servers in the past fortnight has led to the seizure of more than 70 computers in the search for evidence. Each server had around a thousand users and 30 terabytes of shared music. The Italian authorities also found a large amount of child pornography on one of the servers.

The latest wave of cases, covering actions launched yesterday or brought in recent months, takes the total number of legal actions against uploaders to more than 5,500 in 18 countries outside the U.S.

A wide variety of people are finding themselves on the receiving end of legal action and paying large financial penalties. They include a Finnish carpenter, a British postman, a Czech IT manager, a German judge, a French chef, a British local councillor and a retired German couple. A large number of cases involve men aged between 20 and 35 and parents who have allowed their children to use P2P file-sharing sites hosting illegal content.

Mary Louise Morris, head of education and awareness at international children's charity Childnet International, said: "In our experience, parents are not aware of what their children are doing online and don't know how to begin to ask the right questions. On these file-sharing sites, its not only illegal activities like copyright infringement that children might be participating in, but also viewing highly inappropriate materials as well as compromising the security of the home computer. Parents need to get involved with what their children are doing online and take a more active role in guiding them in their use of the internet."

Hundreds of people have already paid the price for illegally file-sharing copyrighted material, with average legal settlements of Euro 2,633, IFPI claimed.

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