Recording Industry Hails Europe’s First Criminal Judgement Against Internet Piracy

IFPI Press Release, December 8, 1999

French Court Ruling Will Help Spur Development of Legitimate Online Music Market

London, December 8, 1999

The global fight against music piracy on the Internet has received an important boost after a court in France convicted two pirate operators of illegally distributing whole albums of music repertoire.

The December 6 ruling against the two individuals, a 24-year old computer technician and a 21-year old information technology student, is the first criminal judgment against Internet pirates in Europe. The two men were given 3-month suspended prison sentences and ordered to pay damages of FF100,000 (US$15,300).

The decision comes only a few weeks after the launch by national groups of IFPI, with the support of scores of artists, of its global campaign to promote legal music on the Internet.

The case had been brought in June by French anti-piracy organization SCPP on behalf of Sony Music Entertainment, Island Records, Warner Brothers, Atlantic Records and the French authors’ society SACEM. The pirate operators, based in St. Etienne in central France, had been offering “deep links” allowing visitors to their site to download albums by top-selling French and international artists. The files illegally distributed included the latest albums by Will Smith, Tori Amos, Madonna and The Cranberries. Between mid-April and mid-June 1999, there were more than 15,000 connections made to the pirate site.

IFPI unveiled a globally-coordinated Internet anti-piracy strategy in October, announcing enforcement actions against hundreds of illegal sites in more than 20 countries. The ruling by the criminal court of St. Etienne is one of the first cases worldwide to come to a judgment since the launch of that global campaign, which is entitled “Action for Legal Music on the Internet.”

Further court decisions, that are crucial for promoting legal music on the Internet, are awaited in countries including Sweden, Belgium, Italy and France. Last month the Court of First Instance in Belgium provided an important guideline on the liability of Internet service providers (ISPs) when the ISP Belgacom Skynet was told by the Court that it had to take down pirate content once it was notified that the material was infringing.

Internet piracy is a growing problem for artists and record producers as they start developing legitimate businesses in the online environment. It is estimated that there are 1 million illegal files available on the Internet at any one time.

IFPI’s strategy is to prevent piracy on the Internet from evolving into the serious large-scale threat posed to its member companies by physical piracy. Piracy of physical formats, mainly CDs, is already a fast-growing global black market with an estimated value of $4.5 billion annually.

Marc Guez, managing director of SCPP, said: “This is an important first step in the fight against Internet piracy. It will help educate young people that Internet piracy is a serious offense, bringing serious legal consequences. And it shows the strong will of the French authorities to protect the rights of creators.”

Jay Berman, Chairman of IFPI, said: “This sends the right signal for everyone – artists, authors and record producers – who looks forward to a fully-fledged legitimate online music market. Internet piracy is illegal and it needs judgments like this to make sure everyone knows it is illegal.”

For further information contact:
Adrian Strain, IFPI: 44 171 878 7939
Laurence Courant-Marcos, SCPP Tel. 00 33 1 46 40 1000

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