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British Court Orders IDs of Downloaders

British Court Orders IDs of Downloaders

Credit: JANE WARDELL, Associated Press Writer

LONDON - The High Court in London has ordered Internet service providers to hand over the names and addresses of 28 alleged music pirates to Britain's trade body for the recording industry.

The British Phonographic Industry Ltd., or BPI, Friday welcomed the court order by Justice William Blackburne as the first step to suing people it accuses of promoting the illegal downloading of copyrighted music.

The ruling is a victory for both the BPI and its umbrella organization, the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, IFPI, which announced earlier this month that its affiliates were filing a total of 459 lawsuits against alleged Internet pirates in Britain, France, Germany, Denmark, Italy and Austria.

The lawsuits target people alleged to have put hundreds of copyright songs onto Internet file-sharing networks and offered them to millions of people worldwide without permission.

The IFPI claims piracy is behind a global slump in music sales that began in 2000. It says worldwide sales of recorded music fell 7.6 percent in 2003, following a similar drop the previous year. U.S. music sales have been on the rebound since fall 2003.

The court order issued Thursday by Blackburne requires the service providers, or ISPs, to identify the 28 individuals within two weeks. The BPI called the 28 "major file-sharers" who were providing an estimated 7 million British people, and unknown millions worldwide, with illegal downloads of music.

BPI chairman Peter Jamieson said the 28 are "uploading music on a massive scale, effectively stealing the livelihoods of thousands of artists and the people who invest in them."

Cases against individual song swappers have been contentious in the United States, where Verizon Communications Inc. successfully challenged the industry's use of subpoenas to seek identifying information about the company's Internet subscribers.

A U.S. appeals court ruled in December that the recording industry can't use the subpoenas to force Internet providers to identify file-swappers unless a lawsuit is first filed. In response, the music industry has sued "John Doe" defendants — identified only by their numeric Internet addresses — and expects to work through the courts to learn their identities.

The BPI, which represents hundreds of recording companies in Britain, says an estimated 700 million music files were illegally available worldwide on file-sharing networks in June, a decline from a 1 billion high in June 2003. The number of users seeking illegal downloads, it said, has declined 40 percent from its peak in April 2003.