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UK music fans have agreed to pay thousands of pounds in compensation for distributing music illegally via peer-to-peer networks, the BPI (British Phonographic Industry) announced Friday. Music fans paid up to £4,500 each in a series of 23 settlements and agreed to accept injunctions against them illegally uploading music again.

The BPI announced a further 31 cases across eight different P2P networks are in the pipeline as part of its attempt to broaden its campaign against illicit file sharing on the net. Other actions may follow.

The 23 settlements announced Friday arise out of the 26 cases announced by the BPI in October 2004. Three cases are still in negotiation and legal action may follow. The settlements include internet users from all over the UK – 17 men and six women aged between 22 and 58. Those caught out included a student, the director of an IT company and a local councillor. The BPI said that it some cases it's likely that parents settled because of files uploaded by their children but it doesn't go into details. The average settlement is more than £2,000. Two illegal file sharers are paying more than £4,000 each to settle their cases.

BPI General Counsel Geoff Taylor said: "We have no desire to drag people through the courts. So we have attempted to reach fair settlements where we can. We hope people will now begin to get the message that the best way to avoid the risk of legal action and paying substantial compensation is to stop illegal file sharing and to buy music online, safely and legally, instead."

The BPI is due to attend the High Court on Friday (4 March) seeking orders for the disclosure of the identities of a further 31 illegal file sharers on a range of peer-to-peer networks, including Kazaa, eDonkey, Grokster, Soulseek, DirectConnect, Limewire, Bearshare and Imesh.

Said Taylor, "If illegal file sharers think that they can avoid getting caught by staying away from the most popular networks like Kazaa, they’re wrong. We are going to continue bringing cases against people who distribute music illegally, whichever file sharing network they use, for as long as it’s necessary. Legitimate music services can only prosper if we continue to fight the theft of music on the internet."

The BPI reckons its turning the tide against illegal file sharing. It quotes figures suggesting the number of users on file sharing network Fast Track – on which Kazaa runs – was down 45 per cent in January 2005 from its April 2003 peak. The unpalatable bundling of adware on Kazaa and the shift to other services could equally be used to explain the decline. The BPI also quotes figures that the number of eDonkey servers is down by 61 per cent and BitTorrent servers and users are down 66 per cent but fails to the timescale or source for this data. ®

Related stories

UK record industry sues 28 file-sharers
Identify file-sharers, judge tells UK ISPs
Much smoke to BPI's fileshare suits, but where's the fire?
RIAA targets 963 alleged file-traders
MPAA asks Supreme Court to crush P2Pers
The BitTorrent P2P file-sharing system
Dutch raid eDonkey sites, seize servers

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