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UK file-sharers told to pay more than £20,000

Music biz heralds anti-piracy legal victory

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The English High Court has ordered two men to pay a combined £6,500 in damages after deciding they illegally distributed music through P2P file-sharing networks.

The two cases were brought separately by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI), the UK's equivalent of the Recording Industry Ass. of America (RIAA), and are the first of their kind in the UK. Both men were offered the opportunity to settle, but neither chose to do so, the BPI said. Neither man was named.

One defendant, a postman from Brighton, Sussex was ordered to pay £1,500. He may also yet be ordered to pay costs. The court rejected his defence that he had acted in ignorance of the UK's copyright law and did not offer the music for money.

The second man, from King's Lynn, Norfolk, was hit with a fine of £5,000 and told to pay the BPI's costs. It is estimated that they could take the total amount he must cough up to more than £18,500. He claimed the BPI had no direct evidence of infringement.

The two men were both among five people the BPI took to court in August 2005 after they refused to reach a settlement. The BPI said the other cases are pending and that it expects them to be resolved shortly.

The organisation began pursuing alleged copyright infringers in October 2004, and to date has come to terms with 88 people, some of whom have paid up to £6,500 to avoid a court hearing.

The BPI said it is currently seeking settlements with a further 51 file-sharers, all of whom it approached in December 2005. They have until 31 January to reach an accord, the organisation warned. ®

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