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File-sharing crackdown rages worldwide

Attorney Eric J. Sinrod says the recording industry does not need to go after every single infringer. It has already created a deterrent.

Lest there be any doubt, the recording industry is quite serious about cracking down on what it perceives to be illegal file-sharing, in the United States and other countries as well. To prove the point, the industry has just initiated more than 2,100 new legal cases against individuals in Europe, Asia and South America.

According to the International Federation for the Phonographic Industry, file-sharers in Sweden, Switzerland, Argentina, Hong Kong and Singapore are now at risk of criminal penalties and payment of damages in an international campaign. Thousands of people already have had to pay at least $3,000 for uploading copyrighted music on peer-to-peer networks.

The IFPI maintains that these latest cases bring the total number of such legal actions to more than 3,800 in 16 countries outside the United States. The IFPI states that this is the fourth wave of cases since this international campaign began in March 2004. The campaign is targeting users of all the major unauthorized P2P networks, including FastTrack (Kazaa), Gnutella (BearShare), eDonkey, DirectConnect, BitTorrent, WinMX and SoulSeek.

At a press conference announcing the latest wave of legal actions, IFPI Chairman and CEO John Kennedy proclaimed there was no excuse to steal music on the Internet--especially when there are plenty of legal alternatives. "There are 2 million tracks available on over 300 sites across the world where consumers can download safely and legally and buy, subscribe to or listen to online music at fantastic value," he said. "The music industry is making a vast catalog of music available to consumers online, but at the same time we are determined to protect our music from copyright theft."

The recent actions in Sweden, Switzerland, Argentina, Hong Kong and Singapore are set against the backdrop of prior lawsuits filed in Austria, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, the U.K. and the United States. That brings the total of countries involved in litigation to 17, according to the IFPI. The take-away point here very well might be that you can run, but you cannot hide.

That is to say, the recording industry likely will go to the ends of the earth to seek to stamp out what it believes to be illegal file-sharing. The industry likely will not be able to go after every single infringer. But if it makes enough waves in many countries, its legal actions could have a serious deterrent effect.