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Tuesday 16th September, 2003


The British Phonographic Industry has announced plans to prosecute internet music pirates.

From today, it will seek damages and injunctions to them from illegally uploading recordings on to filesharing networks.

But why has the BPI resorted to these measures?

Internet music piracy has been being blamed for a drop in the number of CD sales. Although the BPI has been warning for months that unauthorized file-sharing is illegal, it has not proven effective enough to deter people from doing it.

James Naughtie talked to several music industry big-wigs about the BPI's decision.

Feargal Sharkey is formerly of punk band the Undertones, and now a solo artist and chairman of the government's Live Music Forum. He says that with this move, the BPI is ensuring the survival of the music industry and its artists, through continuing music sales. Sharkey claims that people are not aware of the impact that unauthorised file sharing has on young talent. Sixty percent of musicians in the UK earn less than £10,000 per annum. Every time we download a song for free, says Sharkey, we are 'are depriving young musicians of a couple of quid which they really need.'

But is file swapping really the cause of declining music sales?

Alan Morris, executive vice president of Sharman Networks, which operates Kazaa, the peer-to-peer file sharing service, disagrees. Morris cites a Harvard Business school report which says that the effect of file sharing on CD sales is negligible. He says that it is 'naive' to believe that the industry experiences a net loss every time a song is downloaded for free.

However, Steve Redmond, of the BPI, doesn't agree, and reminds us that online music trading is illegal.

Legal and illegal downloading are not to be confused. Downloading from pay sites such as Apple's iTunes is legitimate, but free downloading from peer to peer file sharing sites, is not. And file swappers can't plead ignorance either. Seventy percent of file sharers know exactly what they are doing, according to Redmond.

But won't taking music pirates to court prove an impossible task? According to the BPI, 7.4 million people have downloaded songs illegally.

So who will the BPI be targeting? Redmond claims that only fifteen percent of file swappers are actually providing files for public use. The BPI are monitoring those who are transferring thousands of files onto the internet without paying for them. Those who are using the KaZaA, Imesh, Grokster, Bearshare and WinMX networks will be on the BPI's list.

So watch out file sharers - the BPI could be onto you! Those free files could soon prove to be very expensive!

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