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The BPI defended its decision to sue illegal music downloaders yesterday, as it lent its backing to an education program aimed at shielding tots and teens from the perils of unauthorised MP3s.

International charity Childnet’s low-tech answer to illegal downloads is a leaflet titled, “Young People, Music and the Internet – a guide for parents about P2P, file-sharing and downloading”. It urges parents to “engage” with their children on the issue of illegal downloading, before warning that porn and viruses lurk in P2P sites, and dropping dark hints about the possibility of parents being sued over their children’s downloads.

The international leaflet campaign is being backed by the BPI, and is the soft side of its campaign against illegal downloaders. The flip side is the ongoing legal action against downloaders launched last year.

The BPI’s director of communications and development, Steve Redmond, showed no softening of the organisation’s legal strategy in a debate with Factory Records founder Tony Wilson at the In the City Interactive conference in London on Tuesday.

“Noone comes into this industry to sue people,” Redmond said when challenged by Wilson on the BPI’s legal campaign.

But, he continued, “The only campaign in the world that appears to have an effect on downloading is the American litigation.”

Redmond shrugged off the suggestion by Wilson that one of the organization’s legal targets could argue the industry created the problem itself by not moving into MP3 technology earlier.

“We would win,” he said, “because it’s clearly irrelevant.”

Redmond also rebuffed suggestions from the audience that the campaign could blow up in the BPI’s face, for example if a child facing legal action killed themselves.

“It’s highly unlikely that a 12 year old would top themselves,” he said.

“It is people who steal records who are landing themselves in court,” he continued, pointing out that the BPI’s campaign was aimed at uploaders.

Wilson, for his part, goaded Redmond over the record industry’s approach to technology, but demonstrated his neutrality by also dissing record retailers, the makers of 24 Hour Party People, and Steve Jobs.

He also turned his ire on musicians themselves. “The perception is musicians like music, the record industry guys like money,” he said. “The reality is the exact opposite… musicians are penny pinching f..kers.”®

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