updated 3/30/2004 3:14:20 PM ET 2004-03-30T20:14:20

Recording industry associations in Europe and Canada are going after 247 people for illegally swapping music online, taking up a tactic used by music companies in the United States.

The London-based International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) said Tuesday that action had been taken in Germany, Denmark, Italy and Canada. The IFPI, which represents the recording industry worldwide, said lawsuits would be launched in more countries in coming months as part of its campaign against music piracy.

"This is our first coordinated effort to take this campaign over the range of countries where file stealing is a problem," said Allen Dixon, IFPI's general counsel and executive director.

The group claims music piracy is a major cause of the global decline in music sales over the last five years. It said worldwide sales of recorded music fell 7 percent in 2002, and added that it expected figures for 2003 to show sales dipping by at least the same amount.

In the United States, the recording industry has sued 1,977 people since launching its assault against illegal file-sharers last fall. It has reached out-of-court settlements in around 400 cases.

The actions in Europe and Canada are being brought by national recording industry groups affiliated with the IFPI, the federation said.

It said that more than 120 people in Denmark are being sent letters asking them to stop illegal file sharing and pay compensation, or face legal action.

The IFPI also said that in Germany, 68 people have been reported to law enforcement authorities, while in Italy 30 people have been charged with copyright infringement. In Canada, 29 people are facing copyright infringement claims.

The legal actions target people allegedly involved in large-scale file sharing on systems including Kazaa, DirectConnect, WinMX, eMule and iMesh, IFPI said. It added that people found guilty of music piracy could face criminal or civil penalties, depending on the law in each country, and that fines could amount to thousands of dollars for each individual.

Legal action against individual song downloaders has been a contentious issue in the United States, where Verizon Communications Inc. successfully challenged the industry's use of subpoenas to seek identifying information about Verizon's Internet subscribers.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for Washington, D.C., ruled in December that the recording industry can't use the subpoenas to force Internet providers to identify music downloaders without filing a lawsuit.

In response, music industry lawyers have filed cases against "John Doe" defendants — identified only by their numeric Internet protocol addresses — and expected to work through the courts to learn their names and where they live.

Copyright 2004 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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