File Sharers Hit With Criminal Charges

German file-sharers hit with criminal charges By Adam Pasick

German police have filed criminal charges against 3,500 people accused of using the eDonkey file-sharing network to share copyrighted music illegally, the recording industry's trade group said on Tuesday.

The music industry has filed thousands of lawsuits in its fight against online piracy, but criminal prosecutions have been relatively rare. Users could face a maximum penalty of five years in prison if the music files were shared for commercial purposes.

"No one should be surprised that we are stepping up our campaign in this way," said John Kennedy, chairman and chief executive of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry. "Internet piracy has hurt the whole music community in Germany, with legitimate sales falling by a third in just five years."

Global music sales have been on the decline for years, but the rate of decline slowed to about 1 percent last year due to crackdowns on piracy and the growth of legitimate online music services like Apple's iTunes. The world's top music companies have voiced hopes that the Internet will eventually offset continued declines in physical formats like CDs.

The charges announced in Germany are aimed at people who upload music to file-sharing networks, not those who solely download music to their computers.

Copyright 2006 Reuters Limited.

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Adam Pasick
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