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The European music industry plans to take the fight against Internet piracy right to the doors of file sharers with individually targeted lawsuits, the head of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) sayes.

And the subpoenas could start flying next year.

Writing in the IFPI in-house magazine, organisation chairman and CEO Jay Berman says: "Lawsuits on a large scale have so far been restricted to the US; this 'fight back' will almost inevitably have to take place internationally as well."

Berman's piece outlines the industry's global Internet strategy for 2004, suggesting that the organisation has next year in mind for its legal assault.

Certainly 2004 is expected to see the European debut of Apple's iTunes Music Store and other legitimate music download services alongside OD2, currently Europe's only legal song supplier with major label back catalogue on offer.

"The success of Apple iTunes in the USA, now joined by Rhapsody, Napster and others, is pointing the way for the rest of the world," says Berman. "I confidently expect Apple iTunes, Amazon, Napster and others to launch their own services in Europe in the first half of 2004."

In the US, the Recording Industry Ass. of America's legal action against individual file sharers began in June, a month after the launch of Apple's service. Since then, Nielsen/NetRatings figures cited by The Guardian newspaper suggest that US users visiting the Kazaa peer-to-peer network has almost halved from 16 million in March to 8.2 million in October.

Nielsen/NetRatings reckons that 9.4 million Europeans used the network that month.

It is not clear if the RIAA's tactics or the arrival of Napster, BuyMusic, MusicMatch and others alongside Apple have led to the decline. Kazaa's own policy of stamping on Kazaa Lite can't have helped.

But it is clear that Berman reckons both "resorting to law" and the arrival of legitimate services have paved the way for a reduction in illegal activity. With those services now coming to Europe, if he's right, then so must the legal action. ®

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