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Are 3500 German eDonkey file sharers really facing criminal prosecution?

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The German state prosecutor this week claimed it has searched 130 homes all over Germany and identified 3,500 suspects who have been offering up to 8,000 music files through P2P network eDonkey.

These individuals now face fines of up to €15,000 or prison sentences of up to three years, according to the German Public Prosecution Service of Cologne and the Police Authority of Bergheim.

John Kennedy, chairman of the IFPI, the international recording industry association, this week called the raids "the biggest single action against illegal file-sharing internationally".

However, few details about the raids were given, other than that the German police have run the investigation for several months. This leaves open the question whether the Germans indeed have the names of 3,500 individuals, or more likely a large collection of IP addresses.

The authorities claim they have access to a server located in the German city of Hürth, southwest of Cologne, which acts as a distributor in the eDonkey network. The owners of the server are not prosecuted. German police say that through this server they recorded a total of 40,000 IP addresses, 3,500 of whom were located in Germany.

During the investigation more than 800,000 music files were uploaded. However, claims by German law enforcement that 3,500 individuals were identified with the help of internet providers seem rather unlikely, in particular since German ISPs are reluctant to reveal the identity of internet users who offer downloads of music files on the web.

Public prosecutor Jürgen Krautkremer says he doesn't want to give details while the investigations continue. He confirms that search warrants were issued for those users who shared more than 500 files or, approximately, 25 to 30 CDs during the period under observation.

According to IFPI, some 400 million music files were downloaded illegally last year in Germany. ®

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