File-swap firms form lobbying group

Europe-based Internet file-sharing companies are joining together to defend their interests against media companies trying to force them out of business.

Internet file-sharing companies are forming a lobbying group in Europe to defend their interests against media companies trying to force them out of business, a member of the coalition told Reuters on Monday.

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The move is the latest sign that file-sharing outfits, which until recently operated far away from the public eye to avoid litigation, intend to fight for their right to distribute software that enables computer users to share files online.

Media and software companies say the technology is a threat to their business because it lets users exchange copyright-protected materials such as video games, music, film and software for free.

Last week, file-sharing companies Grokster and LimeWire said that, along with an unspecified number of rival companies, they were in the process of forming a lobbying entity to convince the U.S. Congress of their legitimacy.

The initiative won't stop in Washington, D.C., said Pablo Soto, a Madrid-based developer of file-sharing technology Blubster. European companies are forming a lobbying group in Europe with plans to work with the U.S. group.

"We are joining forces to make the U.S. Congress and the European Union listen to us and the hundreds of millions of voters who use our services," Soto told Reuters.

Soto said details on the coalition will be released as soon as late July. He would not say if the group had hired a lobbyist, nor how many file-sharing companies were involved.

The recording industry is stepping up the heat on file-sharing outfits, claiming they are opening the floodgates to Internet piracy, a phenomenon that is eating into CD sales.

Last week, the Recording Industry Association of America said it would take individual file-sharers to court in an effort to clamp down on the daily flow of millions of unauthorized exchanges.

The International Federation for the Phonographic Industry, a global trade group that counts hundreds of independent and major music labels such as Sony Music and Universal Music as members, has also vowed to keep legal pressure on the companies.

Soto argued that there are legitimate uses for the technology that could be snuffed out if the lawsuits are successful.

Soto said the group does not intend to seek changes to existing copyright laws. He said the primary aim is to protect the privacy of individual users and keep them out of court.

"It's something we've got to do," Soto said.

Story Copyright  © 2003 Reuters Limited.  All rights reserved.

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