Recording Industry Aims Global Crackdown on Internet Pirates

IFPI Press Release, October 28, 1999

IFPI Announces Enforcement Actions in More Than 20 Countries

London, October 28, 1999

The international recording industry today unveiled a new coordinated global strategy against internet piracy, announcing actions against hundreds of infringing sites in more than 20 countries worldwide.

The strategy incorporates actions taken over the last few months by allied national groups representing the recording industry. It is aimed at ridding the internet of large amounts of pirate content and paving the way for artists and record companies to deliver music electronically and legally across the world.

As the music industry enters the era of electronic commerce, artists and record companies are preparing to deliver recordings legitimately on-line. In fact, many have already begun offering music on the Internet. Just as in the physical world of CDs, they need protection from piracy which undermines their basic right to authorise the use of their creative works.

Today’s action also highlights the urgent need for countries worldwide to introduce copyright legislation to promote legitimate music delivery in the on-line age, and to protect creators from internet piracy. Only ten countries have ratified the international legal framework laid down in the WIPO Treaties of 1996. Twenty more ratifications are needed for the Treaties to come into force.

Fighting internet piracy involves targeting two groups – people who are uploading infringing material on to the internet – commonly in the MP3 format – to be downloaded for free or for payment; and Internet Service Providers who may be hosting illegal web-sites and ignoring warning letters informing them that these sites are infringing copyright.

Today’s internet pirates are making available illegally a huge range of music – from top international acts such as Madonna and Celine Dion to national chart-topping artists singing local language repertoire.

The enforcement strategy is organised by national groups of IFPI, the international trade organisation of the recording industry. IFPI estimates that there are presently some 1 million illegal music files posted on the Internet at any one time.

IFPI launched a global structure two years ago to fight the proliferation of CD piracy, now worth $4.5 billion annually. The new global strategy to fight internet piracy reflects the recording industry’s concern over spreading on-line piracy in the next few years.

Artists speak out for Legal Music

Coinciding with today’s enforcement announcement is the launch in several countries of a new rolling campaign “Action for Legal Music on the Internet”. Scores of artists are supporting the campaign.

In Sweden, one the world’s most Internet-penetrated countries, more than 60 artists including Roxette and Lutricia Mcneal, have signed an open letter calling for music to be protected in the on-line world. Support has also been declared in France by top-selling acts Jean-Jacques Goldman and Pascal Obispo, in Italy by Claudio Baglioni and Luca Barbarossa and by leading musicians in Portugal. In Hong Kong, the three biggest-selling Chinese artists Leslie Cheung, Jacky Cheung and Andy Lau added their voice to the campaign. Major artists also spoke out in Austria. (Quotes from artists are available on request).

IFPI Chairman Jay Berman said: “Today artists and record producers are promoting the right way to use the Internet to get great music to millions of fans and buyers across the world. People need educating that Internet piracy is wrong because it denies creators the opportunity authorise the use of their works. But, more than that, today’s enforcement campaign by IFPI shows that where internet pirates are persistently breaking the law, there is now a global anti-piracy operation which will stop them and, if necessary, subject them to the full force of the law”.

Worldwide Enforcement Crackdown

The anti-piracy enforcement actions announced today comprise legal initiatives, warning letters and “cease and desist” letters. The actions were taken today or in the last few months by IFPI groups across the world. They include:


Japan: 2,037 illegal MP3 files have been deleted so far this year.

South Korea: Since June 1998, IFPI Korea has sent more than 80 letters to operators of pirate sites, and around 65% of those sites were closed down. Meanwhile, the national group is also assisting government authorities in taking actions against sellers of illegally copied MP3 CD-ROMs.

Hong Kong: IFPI Hong Kong has sent 70 warning letters to content providers since June, of which about 55 have closed down.

Taiwan: IFPI Taiwan has located 67 sites containing infringing materials. In 1998, a total of 44 of the infringing sites were shut down. IFPI Taiwan has also located 53 sites in other territories containing Taiwanese repertoire. These sites host more than 10,000 infringing files.

North America

USA: Information subpoenas are now being used by the Recording Industry of America to address the problem of individuals who continually replace sites after they have been required to take them down. This is part of an ongoing effort to combat piracy.

Latin America

“Cease and Desist” letters have been sent to ISP’s and site operators of the biggest mp3 hosting sites in: Brazil, Mexico and Argentina. In Argentina 300 CD-R’s with MP3 files ready for sale were secured.


South Africa: Today an ISP has received a notification in order to disclose the website operator’s contact details.


Switzerland: 20 infringing site operators have been sent “Cease and Desist” letters.

Italy: Warning letters sent by IFPI in Italy have closed down 535 illegal sites so far this year. FIMI, the Italian IFPI Group, has applied for search warrants on the basis of criminal investigations against two major organisations involved in hosting illegal MP3 files.

Czech Republic: In the last week IFPI sent 150 warning letters to heads of educational establishments, after which substantial amounts of pirate material have been taken down. Legal action this year by IFPI has led to 14 prosecutions against individuals selling CD-Recordable copies produced from MP3 files downloaded from the Internet. A major FTP site hosting hundreds of illegal MP3 files was closed down this week.

Sweden: IFPI has closed down 1,000 illegal sites and has filed for 10 criminal prosecutions against individuals.

Austria: “Cease and Desist” letters have been sent out to identified individuals offering illegal MP3 files on their web sites. Criminal actions against major Austrian MP3 sites are planned.

Netherlands: A new Internet enforcement programme has been introduced: 100 sites have been closed down to date.

France: France’s SCCP has launched 4 criminal actions against illegal MP3 sites this year. Seven further actions are planned by the end of the year.

United Kingdom: In the UK, over 30 illegal MP3 sites have been recently closed down, which together hosted thousands of MP3 files. In addition, the BPI yesterday launched a major investigation into illegal music, targeting in particular sites offering illegal files of music where the user is encouraged to look at the “sponsor’s” material and is then shown a selection of sex sites.

Germany: The German group of IFPI closed down almost 500 illegal German websites since the beginning of this year. During October approximately 100 websites with more than 3,000 illegally posted tracks have been closed down.

Denmark: IFPI has closed down some 1,000 sites in recent months. There are also 3 internet piracy court cases pending in the High Court.

Music On The Internet – Key Facts

Independent forecasts suggest on-line sales of recorded music will increase rapidly in the next few years, creating a market of several billion US dollars. In the USA, sales of physical recordings ordered via the internet are growing fast. In 1998 internet-ordered CDs more than tripled to US$132 million – just over 1% of the US recorded music market.

In 1999 international artists have increasingly experimented with sample downloads of the music off the Internet. Others, including Eurythmics, Tina Turner, Peter Gabriel and Alanis Morrisette have offered whole songs for download. In September 1999 David Bowie made his album “Hours” available for download on the Internet two weeks before the physical retail release.

The recording industry and the technology industries are building the conditions for a thriving on-line music market through a number of partnerships including the Secure Digital Music Initiative (SDMI). SDMI brings together more than 120 companies and organisations to develop an open, interoperable architecture and specification for playing, storing and distributing digital music.

All major multinational record companies have announced plans to deliver music for direct download on the Internet, or are doing so already.

It is estimated that 1 million illegal music files are posted on the Internet – yet few countries, outside the USA, have adequate legislation to fight Internet piracy.

In the USA, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act gives strong rights and enforcement powers for rights owners; furthermore, in the US the new Electronic Theft (Net) Act provides for legal action specifically on the charge of Internet piracy.

In Europe, the draft EU Copyright Directive will be the key legislative tool for fighting internet piracy. The Directive, which aims to extend copyright protection from the physical to the Internet environment was proposed in 1997 but has yet to be adopted.

Worldwide, the legal framework for protecting artists’ and record producers’ rights is the WIPO Treaties concluded in December 1996. Of the more than 100 countries which concluded the Treaties, 30 ratifications are needed for its implementation. Currently, only 10 have ratified.

IFPI is the organisation representing the international recording industry. Its members comprise 1400 record producers and distributors in 70 countries.

For further information contact:
Adrian Strain, IFPI: 44 171 878 7939

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