European Record Companies Sue 2,000 Purported File-Sharers

The music industry launched a new wave of lawsuits and criminal proceedings against file-sharers across Europe on Tuesday, part of its drive to curb online piracy and encourage the use of legal music services.

About 2,000 cases were launched in 10 countries, the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) said in a statement, bringing the total to 5,500 people in 18 countries.

That figure does not include the United States, covered by its sister group, the Recording Industry Association of America, which has filed about 18,000 lawsuits.

Among the countries targeted was Portugal, where sales of physical formats like CDs have slumped by 40 percent in the past four years amid heavy file-sharing usage, especially by college students.

Portugal's sales drop is "in part due to downloaded digital music, but much more of the loss is caused by people obtaining music illegally," IFPI Chairman John Kennedy told a Lisbon news conference.

Though there were more people listening to music, fewer people were buying it, Kennedy said.

"It is a surprise to see the scale of the problem in Portugal," he added, and warned that without anti-piracy measures the music industry in the nation of 10 million people would disappear.

Other users targeted for legal action included a Finnish carpenter, a British postman, a Czech IT manager and a German judge, the IFPI said in its statement.

"A large number of cases involve men aged between 20 and 35 and parents who have not heeded successive education and warning campaigns," it stated.

In Italy authorities have seized more than 70 computers in the search for evidence of illegal file-sharing.

The IFPI's legal proceedings were aimed not at people who illicitly downloaded music but "uploaders" who put copyrighted music onto file-sharing networks.

The IFPI said last week that digital music sales soared in 2005, but not enough to make up for a continuing decline in physical formats like CDs, sending total sales down 3 percent.