The music industry unleashed a new wave of copyright lawsuits on European Internet users on Tuesday, bringing the total sued since November to around 2,000, the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI).
The lawsuits seek to impose fines on Internet users who have uploaded music files and made them available for others to download without the copyright holders' permission.
In addition to fines, the IFPI has begun testing a new legal weapon: using court injunctions to have file sharers' Internet access cut off. Already, 130 such injunctions have been requested in France, leading to over 100 Internet users being disconnected by their ISPs (Internet service providers). A Danish court ruled in February that the same sanction can be applied there, said the IFPI, which is a trade association for the recording industry.
The IFPI uses an automated search tool to pinpoint the IP (Internet Protocol) addresses of those uploading files, and then asks the relevant ISP to identify the subscriber.
"It's all anonymous until the ISP gives us the personal information," said Alex Jacob, a spokesman for IFPI, adding that there is no demographic profiling of the targets for the lawsuits.
"It's simply the volume of files that these people put out," he said. "They have been making large numbers of files available, hundreds or thousands. These are persistent long-term file sharers."
The suits were filed in Austria, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Portugal, Sweden and Switzerland. Some were also filed in Hong Kong, the only territory outside Europe taking part in the current wave of actions, Jacob said.
There will be another wave of cases at the end of August or in early September, Jacob warned.
Since IFPI members turned to the courts to stop the uploading of unauthorized music files, they have sued a total of 5,500 Internet users in 18 countries. The IFPI, which claims to have won hundreds of those cases with settlements averaging Euro 2,633 (US$3,180).
Not all those cases end up in court. British Phonographic Industry (BPI), a U.K. trade association, has filed 138 lawsuits, of which 102 were settled out of court. BPI has won four cases in court, and 32 are still undecided, it said Tuesday.