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UK music biz set to sue file-sharers

'Benign neglect policy' toward P2Pers to end

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The UK music industry has been threatening local file-sharers with Recording Industry Ass. of America-style lawsuits since late last year, but it finally seems to be gearing up to take action.

Industry sourced cited by today's Times newspaper claim that the writs will start to fly within the next month as the UK's answer to the RIAA, the BPI (British Phonographic Industry) targets "the most flagrant users of peer-to-peer Internet file-sharing sites", as the paper puts it.

It's hard to see what's taken the music biz so long, given how much time its members have bemoaned the alleged P2P-driven downturn in world music sales. "Benign neglect", is how one unnamed industry executive described the business' policy here. Certainly, the UK music industry has been hit far less than other nations' recording business. Possibly they were waiting to see how the situation turned out in the US.

The International Federation of Phonographic Industries (IFPI) today said that the decline was slowing. World music sales totalled $13.9bn in the first six months of 2004, just 1.3 per cent down on the H1 2003 total, $14.1bn. H1 2003, by contrast, was 10.7 per cent down on H1 2002. Shipments were up 1.7 per cent between those two periods, to 1.22bn units.

In other words, people are buying more music these days, not less. The revenue dip is almost certainly the result of falling unit prices, which is one of the likely motors for rising shipments.

Has the RIAA's litigious behaviour helped? Certainly, US music sales were up 3.9 per cent between H1 2003 and H1 2004. Japan and the UK, the world's next two biggest music markets saw sales dip by very low sub-percentage figures. Germany and France showed were IFPI and co. should be turning their attention, perhaps: sales were down 5.2 per cent and 21.9 per cent, respectively. Sales in Spain were down 11 per cent.

The IFPI has brought action against file-sharers in continental Europe, though the scale of its efforts here has been dwarfed by the volume of lawsuits instigated out by the RIAA, which has targeted thousands of named and unnamed alleged music sharers since commencing such action in September 2003. ®

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